White Privilege

Tips on Learning About White Privilege

  1. Acknowledging white privilege does not mean all white people have easy lives. It just means on top of all their problems, white people don’t have to deal with discrimination and systemic racism in many aspects of their lives.
    • For example black sounding names on resumes receive 50% less call backs than white sounding names on the same resumes.  Black people make 72-64¢ for every dollar a white person makes for the same work.  And black schools receive billions less in funding than white schools.  None of these things mean white people have it easy.  But these are all things white people don’t have to deal with.
  2. Recognizing white privilege in this country doesn’t mean you are personally responsible for the world, that you didn’t work hard for your life, or that you explicitly support racism.
  3. In order to progress towards a country that can treat everyone fairly and justly we all must understand the benefits and disadvantages of the social positions we are born in to, especially based on race.
  4. White privilege and racism is best understood with humility, not ego.
    • Often reactionary or defensive feelings rise up from white people when hearing about white privilege and racial discrimination. Sometimes white people have to first spend time understanding whats behind these personal reactions they experience when hearing about their own privilege or about people below their privilege, before understanding white privilege and racial discrimination.
  5. Without recognizing white privilege and racial discrimination, programs of cultural diversity, affirmative action and civil rights protections, meant to foster a more fair society, can seem unfair and can even cause white people to feel like victims.
  6. Racism is a white problem.  Its not up to non white people to explain it.  Its the responsibility of white people to actively try to understand it.
  7. Racism is not just about being offensive but about one group having an oppressive power over another.  If you don’t understand why one thing is racist and another is not, always look at the power dynamics  Racism = Prejudice + Power.

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Table of Contents

White Privilege
White Culture (Whiteness)
White Internalizations
White Supremacy
White Savior Complex
Color Blind/Post Racial Myth
White Feminism and Intersectionality
White Resentment/Whitelash
Common Excuses to Deny Racism and White Privilege


White Privilege

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“White Privilege refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.” Peggy McIntosh

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Screen Shot 2020-06-10 at 4.14.44 PMSource: Zero Shame Forties

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The Secret History of America: Douchebag: The White Racial Slur We’ve All Been Waiting For

“White privilege is the right of whites, and only whites, to be judged as individuals, to be treated as a unique self, possessed of all the rights and protections of citizenship. I am not a race, I am the unmarked subject. I am simply man, whereas you might be a black man, an asian woman, a disabled native man, a homosexual latina woman, and on and on the qualifiers of identification go. With each keyword added, so too does the burden of representation grow.

Sometimes the burden of representation is proudly shouldered, even celebrated. But more often this burden of representation becomes a dangerous, racist weight, crushing and unbearable. Michael Brown was killed in part because of this burden (the stereotype of black male criminality), and his body continues to carry this weight as the protests mount (the martyred symbol that black lives matter).

But white men are just people. Normal. Basic Humanity. We carry the absent mark which grants us the invisible power of white privilege. Everyone else gets some form of discrimination.”

“Some White people do not identify as White for the same reason they identify as not-racist: to avoid reckoning with ways that Whiteness-even as a construction and mirage- has informed their notions of America and identity and offered them privilege, the primary one being the privilege of being inherently normal, standard, and legal.“ Ibram Kendi, How to be an Antiracist

Kyla Jenée Lacey – “White Privilege” @WANPOETRY

“White privilege has nothing to do with who you are as a person. It has everything to do with the systematic realities of the world we live in which oppresses people who are black and benefits who are white at all levels of society.

So when white people dismiss the idea of privilege with statements like “but I had it hard too”….its irrelevant. Because no matter how poor you were, no matter what neighborhood you grew up in, no matter what struggle you identify with you were still white while experiencing it, which means compared to any black person living a paralleled experience you were indeed reaping the benefits of societal preference towards white skin.

Realize that no matter “how good” black people are, no matter how well spoken, how successful, how wealthy, or how educated we bring ourselves to be, racism and unfair treatment due to skin color remains.

White privilege isn’t a stab at your character it’s a reminder of the world we live in. Acknowledging it promotes a shift in our culture. Dismissing it twists the knife in our countries already wounded system. “ Rachael Cargle, Writer, Activist, Lecturer

Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr. Robin DiAngelo

Brene Brown 3Ps:
Privilege – 1:50- 6:40
Perspective Taking – 7:45 – 10:10
Power – 10:10-15:25

Peggy McIntosh: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group…

…I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible  weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks…

…I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in  my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color  privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other  factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of  work cannot count on most of these conditions

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely
represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without
being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.
30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.
32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.
37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.
38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.
40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.
45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.
46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.
48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.
49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.
50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and

“How Studying Privilege Systems Can Strengthen Compassion”: Peggy McIntosh at TEDxTimberlaneSchools

Yes! Magazine: 10 Examples That Prove White Privilege Exists in Every Aspect Imaginable

(summarized)

1. I Have the Privilege of Having a Positive Relationship with the Police, Generally

  • Sure, the police who patrolled the affluent neighborhoods of my youth were an inconvenience to a few keggers, and I maintain that a traffic violation from the late 90s was unfair, but I grew up thinking of the police officers as a source of safety if I were ever in danger; I certainly never viewed them as the source of danger.
  • In 1999, Amadou Diallo—and the 41 bullets that police officers in plainclothes discharged at this unarmed Black man with no criminal record—taught me that not all share this privilege. Diallo was for me what Michael Brown has been to some White people. Too many Black and brown people are not safe with the police.
  • Not even if you are child, a lesson Tamir Rice and Dajerria Becton taught me.
  • Not even if you are seeking medical help, a lesson Jonathan Ferrell taught me.
  • Not even if you call the police for help with your mentally ill son, a lesson Paul Castaway’s mother taught me.
  • Not even if your back is turned, a lesson Rekia Boyd and Walter Scott taught me.
  • Not even if you tell the police you “can’t breathe,” a lesson Eric Garner taught me.
  • Not even if you have your hands up, a lesson Antonio Zambrano-Montes and Michael Brown (according to sixteen witnesses) taught me.
  • Not even if you are “safe” in custody, a lesson Tanisha Anderson, Natasha McKenna, Freddie Gray, and Sandra Bland taught me. Not even if you plead for help while in custody, a lesson Sarah Lee Circle Bear taught me.
  • These are just a fraction of my teachers, those whose names reached the media, which too often neglect reporting police killings of women of color and Indigenous people.

2. I Have the Privilege of Being Favored by School Authorities

  • In my hometown of Seattle, Black middle school students are nearly four times as likely to be suspended as White students, a reality that has attracted an investigation by the federal government.
  • One federal study found similar disparities start as early has preschool. Preschool.

3. I Have the Privilege of Attending Segregated Schools of Affluence

4. I Have the Privilege of Learning about My Race in School

Unfortunately, in too many schools and districts, ethnic studies is not even an elective.

5. I Have the Privilege of Finding Children’s Books that Overwhelmingly Represent My Race

  • In a New York Times op-ed, Walter Dean Myers taught me that “of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about Black people.” And that doesn’t mean the remaining 3,107 are filled with people of color of various races.
  • In 2013, only 8 percent of children’s books were written by or about people of color.

6. I Have the Privilege of Soaking in Media Blatantly Biased Toward My Race

  • More proof is just one Google image search away. Google “beauty” and count the people of color. Here’s what my search found (and notice the glaring lack of Idris Elba images):

7. I Have the Privilege of Escaping Violent Stereotypes Associated with My Race

  • Given that, throughout this country’s history, White people have been responsible for unspeakable atrocities against people of color—genocide, forced migrations, lynchings—what a set up that violent stereotypes attach to people of color and not to White males like me. Or the three White males recently charged with plotting to bomb “black churches and synagogues as part of a race and hate war.”
  • The Huffington Post’s Julia Craven recently taught me that, since September 11, White supremacists (who tend to be White) have perpetuated more terrorism in the United States than any foreign threat.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center connects nearly 100 killings to a single White supremacist website, Stormfront (whose users also tend to be White).
  • And though I share a similar skin color as these violent White people, I move about free from violent stereotypes—and I haven’t even brought up all the famous White serial killers!
  • Meanwhile, Homeland Security misdirects its resources on the surveillance of the Black Lives Matter activists who dare to protest rampant racism in our country.

8. I Have the Privilege of Playing the Colorblind Card, Wiping the Slate Clean of Centuries of Racism

9. I Have the Privilege of Being Insulated from the Daily Toll of Racism

Then I watched Color of Fear, and Victor Lee Lewis taught me a new reality (as did Lee Mun Wah, who made the film).

1995 color of fear – Eight North American men, two African American, two Latinos, two Asian American and two Caucasian were gathered by director Lee Mun Wah, for a dialog about the state of race relations in America as seen through their eyes. The exchanges are sometimes dramatic, and put in plain light the pain caused by racism in North America.

VICTOR:
“There’s sort of a silent consciousness about or what it means to be American that I sense coming from White folks that I’d like to talk about. But before I do that, I’d like to say one more thing that’s hard about talking about racism. And that is that people of color are spilling their guts and doing education to White people: “Let me explain to you how are you got this wrong. Let me explain to you how you’ve got that wrong. Let me explain…” And then we get cross-examined and it’s like, “Well maybe your problem is… “Blah blah blah blah blah”.” And it’s always– you know, racism get looked at as a person of color’s problem, and it’s not. You know, we’re like on the receiving end of the problem, but we are not the problem. You know, I walk in a world where Black people, where Latinos, where Asians, where Arabs… all these different people are experienced as “problem people” and that, “Well, we’re going to deal with the person of color’s problem,” when, in fact, racism is essentially a White problem.” And that, for you to understand, what racism is about, you’re going to be so uncomfortable. You’re going to be so different from who you see yourself to be now that, you know– there’s just no way for you to get it from where you’re sitting. And I’m not saying that you can never get it. I mean that you need to step outside of your skin and step outside of what seems really comfortable and familiar to you and launch out into, some real, for you, unkown territory. And you haven’t gone out there, like you haven’t– you know, gotten in proximity to Black people, as you said, because you don’t have to. And that’s part of what it means to be “American”, to me: is to have all these things that you can do if you want to, that you don’t have to do if you who don’t want to do. And there’s a way in which, “American,” and “White,” and “Human” become synonyms. That, “Why can’t we just treat each other as human beings?” To me, when I hear it from a White person means, “Why can’t we all just pretend to be White people? I’ll pretend you’re a White person, and then you can pretend to be White.” “Why don’t you eat what I eat?” “Why don’t you drink what I drink?” “Why don’t you think like I think?” “Why don’t you feel like I feel?!” Goddamn it, I’m so sick and goddamn tired of hearing about that! I’m sick of that! That’s what it means to be a human being to me. That’s what it meant to be White. That’s what it meant to be American. “Why don’t you come the hell over here?” That’s what I hear every goddamn day! And you know that I can’t come over there! You know that this skin, and that this hair, and that this way that I talk and that I think that I feel will never get included! Because I’m impalatable to this goddamn nation! I’m impalatble! You cannot swallow me. You cannot taste me. You cannot feel me. Because you don’t want to. You think that you can survive without me, but you can’t, man. You think– And you think that it’ll all be fine if we just treat each other like “human beings”. And what that says to me is, “Don’t be yourself.” “Be like me.” “Keep me comfortable.” “Connect when I’m ready to connect.” “Come out to my place.” Or maybe I’ll come down, and get some artifacts from your place. Uh-uh. That is bullshit!

When you say that your ethnicity is American, there is no American ethnicity. You have to throw away your ethnicity to become American. That’s what it means. That’s what it means. You give up who you are to become American. And you can pretend it’s okay, because you’re White. When we give up what we are to become American, we know that we’re dying from it. You’re dying from it, too, but you don’t know it necessarily. Get ethnic, you know.

You know, I’m not going to trust you until you’re as willing to be changed, and affected, by my experience and transformed by my experience as I am every day by yours.”

10. I Have the Privilege of Living Ignorant of the Dire State of Racism Today

Shaun King, a prominent voice of the Black Lives Matter movement, set me straight on November 10, 2015.

chescaleigh: 5 Tips For Being An Ally

Section of Privilege: 0.35-1″35

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack from a Black Perspective

Yesterday, I was tagged in a post by an old high school friend, asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism. I feel compelled to publish not only his query but also my response to it, as it may be a helpful discourse for more than just a handful of folks on Facebook.
Here’s his post:

“To all of my black or mixed-race FB friends, I must profess a blissful ignorance of this “white privilege” which I’m apparently guilty of possessing. Not being able to fully put myself in the shoes of someone from a background/race/religion/gender/nationality/body type that differs from my own makes me part of the problem, according to what I’m now hearing.

Despite my treating everyone with respect and humor my entire life (as far as I know), I’m somehow complicit in the misfortune of others. I’m not saying I’m color blind, but whatever racism/sexism/other-ism my life experience has instilled in me stays within me, and is not manifested in the way I treat others (which is not the case with far too many, I know).

So that I may be enlightened, can you please share with me some examples of institutional racism that have made an indelible mark upon you? If I am to understand this, I need people I know personally to show me how I’m missing what’s going on. Personal examples only. I’m not trying to be insensitive; I only want to understand (but not from the media). I apologize if this comes off as crass or offends anyone.”

Here’s my response:

Hi Jason,
First off, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve quoted your post and made it part of mine. I think the heart of what you’ve asked of your friends of color is extremely important and I think my response needs much more space than as a reply on your feed. I truly thank you for wanting to understand what you are having a hard time understanding.

Coincidentally, over the last few days, I have been thinking about sharing some of the incidents of prejudice/racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime (in fact, I just spoke with my sister Lesa about how to best do this yesterday) because I realized many of my friends, especially the white ones, have no idea what I’ve experienced/dealt with unless they were present (and aware) when it happened.

There are two reasons for this:

1.) Because not only as a human being do I suppress the painful and uncomfortable in an effort to make it go away, but I was also taught within my community (I was raised in the ‘70s and ‘80s — it’s shifted somewhat now) and by society at large NOT to make a fuss, speak out, or rock the boat. To just “deal with it,” lest more trouble follow (which, sadly, it often does).

2.) Fear of being questioned or dismissed with “Are you sure that’s what you heard?” or “Are you sure that’s what they meant?” and being angered and upset all over again by well-meaning but hurtful and essentially unsupportive responses.

So, again, I’m glad you asked, because I really want to answer. But as I do, please know a few things first:

1.) This is not even close to the whole list. I’m cherry picking because none of us has all day.

2.) I’ve been really lucky. Most of what I share below is mild compared to what others in my family and community have endured.
3.) I’m going to go in chronological order so you might begin to glimpse the tonnage and why what many white folks might feel is a “Where did all of this come from?” moment in society has been festering individually and collectively for the LIFETIME of pretty much every black or brown person living in America today, regardless of wealth or opportunity.

4.) Some of what I share covers sexism, too. Intersectionality is another term I’m sure you’ve heard and want to put quotes around, but it’s a real thing, too, just like white privilege. But you’ve requested a focus on personal experiences with racism, so here it goes:

—One—
When I was three, my family moved into an upper-middle-class, all-white neighborhood. We had a big back yard, so my parents built a pool. Not the only pool on the block, but the only one neighborhood boys started throwing rocks into. White boys. One day my mom ID’d one as the boy from across the street, went to his house, told his mother, and, fortunately, his mother believed mine. My mom not only got an apology, but also had that boy jump in our pool and retrieve every single rock. No more rocks after that.

Then Mom even invited him to come over to swim sometime if he asked for permission. Everyone became friends. This one has a happy ending because my mom was and is badass about matters like these, but I hope you can see that the white privilege in this situation is being able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of vandalism and hostility.

—Two—
When my older sister was five, a white boy named Mark called her a “nigger” after she beat him in a race at school. She didn’t know what it meant, but in her gut, she knew it was bad. This was the first time I’d seen my father the kind of angry that has nowhere to go. I somehow understood it was because not only had some boy verbally assaulted his daughter and had gotten away with it; it had way too early introduced her (and me) to that term and the reality of what it meant — that some white people would be cruel and careless with black people’s feelings just because of our skin color. Or our achievement.

If it’s unclear in any way, the point here is if you’ve NEVER had a defining moment in your childhood or your life where you realize your skin color alone makes other people hate you, you have white privilege.

—Three—
Sophomore year of high school. I had Mr. Melrose for Algebra 2. Sometime within the first few weeks of class, he points out that I’m “the only spook” in the class. This was meant to be funny. It wasn’t. So I doubt it will surprise you I was relieved when he took medical leave after suffering a heart attack and was replaced by a sub for the rest of the semester.

The point here is if you’ve never been “the only one” of your race in a class, at a party, on a job, etc. and it’s been pointed out in a “playful” fashion by the authority figure in said situation — you have white privilege.

—Four—
When we started getting our college acceptances senior year, I remember some white male classmates were pissed that another black classmate had gotten into UCLA while they didn’t. They said that affirmative action had given him “their spot” and it wasn’t fair. An actual friend of theirs. Who’d worked his ass off.

The point here is if you’ve never been on the receiving end of the assumption that when you’ve achieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a white person who “deserved it” — that is white privilege.

—Five—
When I got accepted to Harvard (as a fellow A.P. student you were witness to what an academic beast I was in high school, yes?), three separate times I encountered white strangers as I prepped for my maiden trip to Cambridge that rankle to this day. The first was the white doctor giving me a physical at Kaiser:

Me: “I need to send an immunization report to my college so I can matriculate.”
Doctor: “Where are you going?”
Me: “Harvard.”
Doctor: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

The second was in a store, looking for supplies I needed from Harvard’s suggested “what to bring with you” list.

Store employee: “Where are you going?”
Me: “Harvard.”
Store employee: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

The third was at UPS, shipping off boxes of said “what to bring” to Harvard. I was in line behind a white boy mailing boxes to Princeton, and in front of a white woman sending her child’s boxes to wherever.

Woman, to the boy: “What college are you going to?”
Boy: “Princeton.”
Woman: “Congratulations!” [to me] “Where are you sending your boxes?”
Me: “Harvard.”
Woman: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

I think: “No, b——, the one downtown next to the liquor store.” But I say, gesturing to my LABELED boxes, “Yes, the one in Massachusetts.” Then she says congratulations, but it’s too f—ing late.

The point here is if no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, that is white privilege.

—Six—
In my freshman college tutorial, our small group of 4-5 was assigned to read Thoreau, Emerson, Malcolm X, Joseph Conrad, Dreiser, etc. When it was the week to discuss The Autobiography of Malcolm X, one white boy boldly claimed he couldn’t even get through it because he couldn’t relate and didn’t think he should be forced to read it. I don’t remember the words I said, but I still remember the feeling — I think it’s what doctors refer to as chandelier pain: as soon as a sensitive area on a patient is touched, they shoot through the roof. That’s what I felt.

I know I said something like my whole life I’ve had to read “things that don’t have anything to do with me or that I relate to” but I find a way anyway because that’s what learning is about — trying to understand other people’s perspectives.

The point here is — the canon of literature studied in the United States, as well as the majority of television and movies, have focused primarily on the works or achievements of white men. So if you have never experienced or considered how damaging it is/was/could be to grow up without myriad role models and images in school that reflect you in your required reading material or in the mainstream media — that is white privilege.

—Seven—
All seniors at Harvard are invited to a fancy, seated group lunch with our respective dorm Masters. (Yes, they were called “Masters” up until this February when they changed it to “Faculty Deans,” but that’s just a tasty little side dish to the main course of this remembrance.) While we were being served by the Dunster House cafeteria staff — the black ladies from Haiti and Boston that ran the line daily; I still remember Jackie’s kindness and warmth to this day — Master Sally mused out loud how proud they must be to be serving the nation’s best and brightest.

I don’t know if they heard her, but I did and it made me uncomfortable and sick. The point here is, if you’ve never been blindsided when you are just trying to enjoy a meal by a well-paid faculty member’s patronizing and racist assumptions about how grateful black people must feel to be in their presence — you have white privilege.

—Eight—
While writing on a television show in my 30s, my new white male boss — who had only known me for a few days — had unbeknownst to me told another writer on staff he thought I was conceited, didn’t know as much I thought I did, and didn’t have the talent I thought I had. And what exactly had happened in those few days? I disagreed with a pitch where he suggested our lead female character carelessly leave a pot holder on the stove and burn down her apartment. This character being a professional caterer.

When what he said about me was revealed months later (by then he’d come to respect and rely on me), he apologized for prejudging me because I was a black woman. I told him he was ignorant and clearly had a lot to learn. It was a good talk because he was remorseful and open. But the point here is, if you’ve never been on the receiving end of a boss’s prejudiced, uninformed, “how dare she question my ideas” badmouthing based on solely on his ego and your race, you have white privilege.

—Nine—
On my very first date with my now husband, I climbed into his car and saw baby wipes on the passenger side floor. He said he didn’t have kids, and that they were just there to clean up messes in the car. I twisted to secure my seat belt and saw a stuffed animal in the rear window. I gave him a look. He said, “I promise, I don’t have kids. That’s only there so I don’t get stopped by the police.” He then told me that when he drove home from work late at night, he was getting stopped by cops constantly because he was a black man in a luxury car and they assumed it was either stolen or he was a drug dealer. When he told a cop friend about this, he told Warren to put a stuffed animal in the rear window because it would change “his profile” to that of a family man, and he was much less likely to be stopped.

The point here is, if you’ve never had to mask the fruits of your success with a floppy-eared stuffed bunny rabbit so you won’t get harassed by the cops on the way home from your gainful employment (or never had a first date start this way), you have white privilege.

—Ten—
Six years ago, I started a Facebook page that has grown into a website called Good Black News because I was shocked to find there were no sites dedicated solely to publishing the positive things black people do. Let me explain here how biased the coverage of mainstream media is, in case you don’t already have a clue — as I curate, I can’t tell you how often I have to swap out a story’s photo to make it as positive as the content. Photos published of black folks in mainstream media are very often sullen or angry-looking. Even when it’s a positive story!

I also have to constantly alter headlines to include a person’s name and not have it just be “Black Man Wins Settlement” or “Carnegie Hall Gets First Black Board Member,” or rephrase it from a subtle subjugator like “ABC Taps Viola Davis as Series Lead” to “Viola Davis Lands Lead on ABC Show” as is done for, say, Jennifer Aniston or Steven Spielberg. I also receive a fair amount of highly offensive racist trolling. I don’t even respond. I block and delete ASAP.

The point here is — not having to rewrite stories and headlines or swap photos while being trolled by racists when all you’re trying to do on a daily basis is promote positivity and share stories of hope and achievement and justice — that is white privilege.

Okay, Jason, there’s more, but I’m exhausted. And my kids need dinner. Remembering and reliving many of these moments has been a strain and a drain (and, again, this ain’t even half or the worst of it). But I hope my experiences shed some light for you on how institutional and personal racism have affected the entire life of a friend of yours to whom you’ve only been respectful and kind. I hope what I’ve shared makes you realize it’s not just strangers but people you know and care for who have suffered and are suffering because we are excluded from the privilege you have to not be judged, questioned, or assaulted in any way because of your race.
As to you “being part of the problem,” trust me, nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody. Just like nobody should be mad at me for being black. Or female. Or whatever.

But what is being asked of you is to acknowledge that white privilege does exist, and to not only to treat people of races that differ from yours “with respect and humor,” but also to stand up for fair treatment and justice, to not let “jokes” or “off-color” comments by friends, co-workers, or family slide by without challenge, and to continually make an effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, so we may all cherish and respect our unique and special contributions to society as much as we do our common ground.
With much love and respect,
Lori

Conversations Black Parents Have to Have that White Parents Don’t

Not sure what white privilege is? Imagine you’re in the US. You’re driving down a country road in the middle of the night. You are far from home. Suddenly, you see police lights in your rearview mirror. You pull over and you look down at your hand. Imagine, in that moment, that you can choose to have any color skin you want. What color skin would you pick? If you choose white skin when dealing with the police, then you have just shown you know what white privilege is.”

White Privilege Explained in Five Minutes

Huffington Post: Explaining White Privilege To A Broke White Person

“…you can see how white people and people of color experience the world in very different ways. But listen: This is not said to make white people feel guilty about their privilege. It’s not your fault that you were born with white skin and experience these privileges. But whether you realize it or not, you do benefit from it, and it is your fault if you don’t maintain awareness of that fact…

…And there are so many more points in the essay (White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack) where the word “class” could be substituted for the word “race,” which would ultimately paint a very different picture. That is why I had such a hard time identifying with this essay for so long. When I first wrote about white privilege years ago, I demanded to know why this white woman felt that my experiences were the same as hers when, no, my family most certainly could not rent housing “in an area which we could afford and want to live,” and no, I couldn’t go shopping without fear in our low-income neighborhoods…

…I, maybe more than most people, can completely understand why broke white folks get pissed when the word “privilege” is thrown around. As a child I was constantly discriminated against because of my poverty, and those wounds still run very deep. But luckily my college education introduced me to a more nuanced concept of privilege: the term “intersectionality.” The concept of intersectionality recognizes that people can be privileged in some ways and definitely not privileged in others. There are many different types of privilege, not just skin-color privilege, that impact the way people can move through the world or are discriminated against. These are all things you are born into, not things you earned, that afford you opportunities that others may not have. For example:

Citizenship: Simply being born in this country affords you certain privileges that non-citizens will never access.

Class: Being born into a financially stable family can help guarantee your health, happiness, safety, education, intelligence, and future opportunities.

Sexual orientation: If you were born straight, every state in this country affords you privileges that non-straight folks have to fight the Supreme Court for.

Sex: If you were born male, you can assume that you can walk through a parking garage without worrying that you’ll be raped and then have to deal with a defense attorney blaming it on what you were wearing.

Ability: If you were born able-bodied, you probably don’t have to plan your life around handicap access, braille, or other special needs.

Gender identity: If you were born cisgender (that is, your gender identity matches the sex you were assigned at birth), you don’t have to worry that using the restroom or locker room will invoke public outrage.

As you can see, belonging to one or more category of privilege, especially being a straight, white, middle-class, able-bodied male, can be like winning a lottery you didn’t even know you were playing. But this is not to imply that any form of privilege is exactly the same as another, or that people lacking in one area of privilege understand what it’s like to be lacking in other areas. Race discrimination is not equal to sex discrimination and so forth.

And listen: Recognizing privilege doesn’t mean suffering guilt or shame for your lot in life. Nobody’s saying that straight, white, middle-class, able-bodied males are all a bunch of assholes who don’t work hard for what they have. Recognizing privilege simply means being aware that some people have to work much harder just to experience the things you take for granted (if they ever can experience them at all).” 

Huff Post: To My White Friends Who See Tragedy in the Black Community and Say Nothing, Make it Personal

“Here’s the thing. To walk past a Confederate flag and feel nothing, to cheer for the Redskins and not feel inferior, to watch how the media discusses Muslims as a monolithic group of violent people and not think twice, is a privilege. If you’re tired of people talking about these issues, let’s get rid of all the passive-aggressive institutional reminders of inferiority. It’s unfair to say “stop talking about being black,” when I drive down roads named after Confederate soldiers who fought to keep me as a slave. The ability to ignore is a privilege. Closing my eyes to these issues is to deny the core of who I am…

…To those of you on social media criticizing the movement to take down the Confederate flag, you have to understand why I can no longer call you my friend. It’s not just “some overly sensitive black people” who are offended by the Confederate flag. I am offended by the Confederate flag. Yes, I know that many people are just celebrating the fallen soldiers (who fought to keep me as a slave). No, I’m not “pro-black” and “anti-white.” I love you all, equally. No, I don’t just like to complain. In fact, sometimes I think about how great it would be not to have been born black in this country, and not have to carry the burden that comes along with being socially conscious. No, I don’t hate you for your opinions. In fact, I pray for you when I go to sleep at night.

When you think of all the “black people who are so offended and just like to complain,” picture my face. Picture the face of your black friends. Think of the hurt in my heart and the tears I cry when I feel like I can do everything right but still be seen as “inferior” because of my skin color. I have a legal degree from one of the most prestigious law schools in the country, but I was reminded when Martese Johnson yelled out “I go to UVA,” before the white officers smashed his bloody face into the concrete, that my education is not protection. Think about how I start shaking when I see people wave the Confederate flag, then proceed to tell me I am acceptable, “because I am a different type of black person, the exception.” Why should I have to prove I am “different” to be accepted?”

Everyday Feminism: Here’s Your Proof That White Americans Don’t Face Systemic Racism

“For one, a startling number of Americans – 49% – think that “discrimination against whites” is “as big a problem as discrimination against” black people and other people of color. Research by The Washington Post corroborates this poll: “Whites now think bias against white people is more of a problem than bias against black people.”

Before you start blaming Trump supporters for these results, a recent poll of 16,000 Americans revealed that Clinton supporters, too, have some serious work to do. For example, 20% of Clinton supporters described Black Americans as “less intelligent” than White Americans. And, not so long ago, two Black women exposed the racism of “progressives” when they dared interrupt Bernie Sanders at a rally in Seattle.”

The Atlantic: Self-Segregation: Why It’s So Hard for Whites to Understand Ferguson

“The shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and the anger poured out in response by Ferguson’s mostly black population, has snapped the issue of race into national focus. The incident has precipitated a much larger conversation, causing many Americans to question just how far racial equality and race relations have come, even in an era of a black president and a black attorney general.

Polls since the incident demonstrate that black and white Americans see this incident very differently. A Huffington Post/YouGov poll finds that while Americans overall are divided over whether Brown’s shooting was an isolated incident (35 percent) or part of a broader pattern in the way police treat black men (39 percent), this balance of opinion dissipates when broken down by race. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of black respondents say that the shooting is part of a broader pattern, nearly double the number of whites who agree (40 percent). Similarly, a Pew Research Center poll found that overall the country is divided over whether Brown’s shooting “raises important issues about race that need to be discussed” (44 percent) or whether “the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves” (40 percent). However, black Americans favor the former statement by a four-to-one margin (80 percent vs. 18 percent) and at more than twice the level of whites (37 percent); among whites, nearly half (47 percent) believe the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

Clearly white Americans see the broader significance of Michael Brown’s death through radically different lenses than black Americans. There are myriad reasons for this divergence, from political ideologies—which, for example, place different emphases on law and order versus citizens’ rights—to fears based in racist stereotypes of young black men. But the chief obstacle to having an intelligent, or even intelligible, conversation across the racial divide is that on average white Americans live in communities that face far fewer problems and talk mostly to other white people.

A 2012 PRRI survey found that black Americans report higher levels of problems in their communities compared to whites. Black Americans were, on average, nearly 20 percentage points more likely than white Americans to say a range of issues were major problems in their community: lack of good jobs (20 points), lack of opportunities for young people (16 points), lack of funding for public schools (19 points), crime (23 points), and racial tensions (18 points).

These incongruous community contexts certainly set the stage for cultural conflict and misunderstanding, but the paucity of integrated social networks—the places where meaning is attached to experience—amplify and direct these experiences toward different ends. Drawing on techniques from social network analysis, PRRI’s 2013 American Values Survey asked respondents to identify as many as seven people with whom they had discussed important matters in the six months prior to the survey. The results reveal just how segregated white social circles are.

Overall, the social networks of whites are a remarkable 91 percent white.* White American social networks are only one percent black, one percent Hispanic, one percent Asian or Pacific Islander, one percent mixed race, and one percent other race. In fact, fully three-quarters (75 percent) of whites have entirely white social networks without any minority presence. This level of social-network racial homogeneity among whites is significantly higher than among black Americans (65 percent) or Hispanic Americans (46 percent).

But these are not stories most whites are socially positioned to hear. Widespread social separation is the root of divergent reactions along racial lines to events such as the Watts riots, the O.J. Simpson verdict, and, more recently, the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. For most white Americans, #hoodies and #handsupdontshoot and the images that have accompanied these hashtags on social media may feel alien and off-putting given their communal contexts and social networks.

If perplexed whites want help understanding the present unrest in Ferguson, nearly all will need to travel well beyond their current social circles.

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Washington Post: When white friends don’t believe what blacks go through, they’re not friends

Forty-five percent of blacks say they have experienced racial discrimination by the police at some point in their lives; virtually no whites say they have,” according to a recent New York Times/CBS News nationwide poll. (I’m shocked the 45 percent figure isn’t higher, considering the stories African Americans tell each other all the time.) So when I share the trauma of that particular incident and so many like it – fraught interactions that may have involved a son (stopped driving a nice car in our nice neighborhood), nephew or friend – I expect, first of all, that I will be believed.

Yet whites are, frequently, disappointingly, incredulous. Very often a “friend’s” reaction that goes something like this: “I don’t think a police officer would stop anyone for no reason at all.” Or: “You must have done something suspicious.” Or my favorite: “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about.” I am not some child coming home with some tall tale, and I am certainly not a delusional liar.

I don’t expect much. Just nodding and acknowledging my words would be enough. Instead, jumping in to explain what must have really happened before I can finish a sentence means that – whether you realize it or not – you’ve shattered an important bond and traveled the distance from friend to acquaintance. I smile, make a mental note, and change the subject, realizing that with this person, topics from now on will be limited to rating entrées at the latest neighborhood bistro or judging whether the new Scorsese film shows the master back in top form.

In the national conversation about race, especially after a well-publicized confrontation like the one in Ferguson this summer, different sides don’t need to agree. But they do have to accept that the other side is speaking sincerely and from the heart. And whites need to believe blacks when we say what we’ve been through.

The discussions I’m talking about are those that have the potential to be most effective—ones that happen naturally, among people of different races who already interact with an easy rapport: the women who sweat together at the gym and compare aches and pains, the moms and dads at the PTA with questions about the new coach, neighbors exchanging tips on backyard gardens. It’s people who already share the ordinary, sometime mundane details of life. From there, it should be easy for one side to give the other the benefit of the doubt. (Yes, America is deeply segregated, but most people do have co-workers of different races; there are opportunities for interaction.)

That’s why it’s especially disappointing when some of the folks whose kids have enjoyed homemade blueberry pie at my kitchen table are the ones who greet my stories with blank stares or worse, excuses. When they deny my life experience, I know the friendship has its boundaries. These are educated people, but I wonder, were they asleep during history class or did they never read a book about the complicated history of America that makes Ferguson about much more than one 18-year-old, one policeman, and one suburban community?

I don’t get upset when a white friend recounts a bad interaction he or she has had with a black person to explain his or her view of me as an exception – much. Though I might recommend that friend get out more. A Public Religion Research Institute survey shows that the social networks of whites are more than 90 percent white, the most homogeneous of any group. I might also ask if judging groups rather than individuals is any way to live life or an efficient way to enforce the law, since 90 percent of those stopped in New York City’s stop-and-frisk routine resulted in nothing but aggrieved citizens.

Americans will never have a forthright conversation on race unless people listen with open minds. They have to believe, and be willing to learn. And most of all, they need an empathetic imagination. “When asked whether police forces should reflect the racial makeup of the communities they serve, nearly six in 10 blacks say yes; whites are about evenly divided,” wrote the Times. Would whites feel comfortable living in a predominantly white community policed by an overwhelmingly black force? I’ve been there when guests at a neighborhood holiday party congratulate themselves on living in an integrated community – and I’m the only black guest. Reverse the numbers and reflect; that’s all I ask.

Is this conversation – one that depends on racial trust – even possible? Given the episodes I’ve just described, you may wonder that I have any white friends at all. I do. (Insert cliché here.) Amid the more common chats about food and movies and why our kids won’t listen, we have those racial conversations, change each other minds, and agree to disagree. I married one of them. Our styles are completely different, but we respect each other’s experiences and opinions — and that was even before my husband had a black son, or skin in the game, so to speak.”

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James Baldwin: I am Not your Negro

Again, like most white Americans I have now encountered, they have no — I’m sure they nothing whatever against Negroes. That’s really not the question.

No, the question is really a kind of apathy and ignorance, which is a price we pay for segregation. That’s what segregation means, that you don’t know what’s happening on the other side of the world because you don’t want to know.”  James Baldwin

Teen Vogue: How “Nice White People” Benefit from Charlottesville and White Supremacy”

White people benefit from white supremacy. Period. Peggy McIntosh spelled this out for us in 1989, but apparently we’re still not quite getting it. Her famous piece, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” lays out undeniable ways that it is simply easier to be white in this country, like always having a boss who is a fellow white person, or, you know, being able to eat Skittles at night without getting shot. Most white people didn’t ask for this privilege. Actually, that’s the whole idea. White privilege is an inherent advantage that easily goes unnoticed and unacknowledged. Rather than stuffing down the sense of shame associated with this obvious unfairness, why not work to even the playing field?

Look, getting a job because your name is Geoff is not the same thing as joining the KKK, but that privilege is precisely the thing white supremacists were working to reassert in Charlottesville. They chanted about not being “replaced.” Their very existence is grounded in insisting on a moral claim to this country as a superior race. They want to continue having every possible advantage based on the color of their skin; that’s practically the mission statement. Most white people are at least aware that they benefit from white supremacy, and yet we stuff down these painfully obvious truths, tending to our cognitive dissonance like a paper cut that won’t heal, worrying more about being called racists than the effects of racism itself.”

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Everyday Feminism: Race Matters: A Story About White Privilege

How can we better understand white privilege and use this knowledge to make the world better for everyone? To this day, so many conversations about [white] privilege are rendered futile because of an inability to accept that our society systematically uplifts some individuals while marginalizing others. Too often, there is a stubborn refusal to accept the many subtle ways we are socialized differently depending on our race. This comic is a perfect illustration of these subtleties and a great starting point for conversation. We need to continue moving forward, but first, we have to get better at recognizing all of the ways that society holds some of us back.

With Love,
The Editors at Everyday Feminism

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The Ability to Ignore is a Privilege

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“If privilege is defined as legitimization of one’s entitlement to resources, it can also be defined as permission to escape or avoid any challenges to this entitlement” Rich Vodde, Valdosta State Professor of Social Work

“Here’s the thing. To walk past a Confederate flag and feel nothing, to cheer for the Redskins and not feel inferior, to watch how the media discusses Muslims as a monolithic group of violent people and not think twice, is a privilege. If you’re tired of people talking about these issues, let’s get rid of all the passive-aggressive institutional reminders of inferiority. It’s unfair to say “stop talking about being black,” when I drive down roads named after Confederate soldiers who fought to keep me as a slave. The ability to ignore is a privilege. Closing my eyes to these issues is to deny the core of who I am” Kiara Imani Williams – HuffPost

“racial caste systems do not require racial hostility or overt bigotry to thrive. They need racial indifference” MLK jr

“White Privilege also means you don’t know what you don’t know” Josh Singer

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Bustle: You’re Not “Not Political,” You’re Complicit

“Make no mistake: Choosing not to “be political” is a privileged position. If you’re not affected by the minimum wage, or the tax bill, or the raging threat of deportation — if you can afford the medical attention you and your family need, if you’ve benefited from a fair wage, if the color of your skin doesn’t dictate how people treat you — then you can afford to ignore politics entirely.

Good for you.

You’ve benefited from the socioeconomic structures that are in place in the United States, and you don’t necessarily have to worry about the people that those same structures systematically hold back.

Except, you should. And not just because those people could have easily been you, under different circumstances — because, to quote the headline of HuffPost editor Kayla Chadwick’s piece: “I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People.”

Obviously, I don’t mean that you have to be protesting injustices every hour of every day, or that you shouldn’t take a break for self-care whenever you need to. Being “political” simply means becoming aware of what’s happening in your town, your state, your country, and taking the time to learn what you can do to create change.

Sometimes, this is going to mean a time commitment — when you show up to a protest, sign a petition, or call your senator, for example. Not doing those things, however, or not being able to do those things, for any reason, does not mean you are not political. There is no checklist; there is no criteria. Either you choose to be aware of the political landscape and as active as your circumstances will allow, or you choose not to be.

What I’d like to make clearest here is that there is a choice. It’s a highly personal one — maybe not even one you ever speak about to another person. Only you can judge what your being “political” means, assuming it’s safe for you to do so. You can be quietly political, or shout your politics for the rooftops, or engage only in certain issues. (Hell, for all the flak Ivanka Trump and Taylor Swift have caught for not being more openly political, there’s some evidence that each of them are quietly fighting for equality behind the scenes.)

Don’t forget: You do have a choice. You do not have an excuse. What’ll it be?”

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I’m Not Political (Because I Assume I Will Retain All of My Privileges Forever)

(satire)

“I just don’t like to get into that sort of thing. I’d rather abstain from all the petty name-calling and meme-swapping because I believe that life is about more than just politics. (Also, because I’m pretty sure that whatever happens will not affect my day-to-day life in any way because I’m not a member of a historically oppressed group.)…

I guess politics has never appealed to me because I just don’t enjoy arguing (things I do enjoy: massages, sriracha, extreme privilege as the result of a class system rigged in my favor, NOT ARGUING). I don’t need to spend hours debating what led to the Iraq War—it feels like it went by super fast anyways (since no one in my social circle had to join the military to pay for college). It’s not important to me that I understand the best solution to economic inequality—my great-grandfather invented steel. While some people need to always be right, I would rather always be kind. Maybe if everyone were always kind, we wouldn’t even need politics (I don’t know what poverty is because my father invested in soybean futures).

Honestly, if more people were like me (low-key rich, able-bodied), we wouldn’t have to have these fights about things that don’t affect me and never will.

Another thing I don’t like about politics is how it divides people. I believe that we are all the same (almost all my friends went to the same college). So I think we should be able to find common ground when it comes to the major issues affecting our lives, whatever those may be. My best friend is actually a socially conservative libertarian and I have never once let that come between us because I have never asked her what that means and she always has weed.

If you’ve been on social media lately, you know that it can seem like politics is impossible to avoid. But imagine for a second what would happen if we replaced all the angry rants about healthcare and immigration with pictures of kittens and puppies. I, for one, would definitely feel better. I already have healthcare and don’t know why anyone would want to change countries—it sounds like it would be really difficult!

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On becoming aware of his own white privilege

By John Hodgman

“I cannot lay claim to consciousness of my white privilege until two summers ago. I mean, the point of privilege is you don’t realize it. We had bought a house in Maine. There are diverse places in Maine, but where we were is not one of them. Maine is the whitest state in the union, as of the last census, beating out Vermont by about 0.4 percent.

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed, shot by police, in quick succession [that summer]. And although Black Lives Matter had already emerged as a movement, it led to very big protests and then a very unseemly counter-protest on the Internet, the All Lives Matter movement.

And I was reading all of this from a very comfortable place in my second summer home, in the whitest state in the union, on my computer. And I realized in one of these moments of clarity that if I closed my computer it could all go away, and I could go out into the world and not think about race at all, because there was only one race to see in this part of Maine, for the most part. Obviously there are exceptions, but statistically speaking. And that was a real moment where I was like, “Why did it take me till my 40s to understand that the biggest privilege of white privilege is the ability to turn off race and pretend that it is not an issue?”

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism

“As a white person I can openly and unabashedly reminisce about “the good old days.” Romanticized recollections of the past and calls for a return to former ways are a function of white privilege, which manifests itself in the ability to remain oblivious to our racial history. Claiming that the past was socially better than the present is also a hallmark of white supremacy.

Consider any period in the past from the perspective of people of color: 246 years of brutal enslavement; the rape of black women for the pleasure of white men and to produce more enslaved workers; the selling off of black children; the attempted genocide of Indigenous people, Indian removal acts, and reservations; indentured servitude, lynching, and mob violence; sharecropping; Chinese exclusion laws; Japanese American internment; Jim Crow laws of mandatory segregation; black codes; bans on black jury service; bans on voting; imprisoning people for unpaid work; medical sterilization and experimentation; employment discrimination; educational discrimination; inferior schools; biased laws and policing practices; redlining and subprime mortgages; mass incarceration; racist media representations; cultural erasures, attacks, and mockery; and untold and perverted historical accounts…
and you can see how a romanticized past is strictly a white construct. But it is a powerful construct because it calls out to a deeply internalized sense of superiority and entitlement and the sense that any advancement fro people of color is an encroachment on this entitlement. the past was great for white people (and white men in particular) because their positions went largely unchallenged.“ Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility

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Foreign Policy: 2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege

“In college — this was in the late 1980s and early 1990s at the University of California, Berkeley — I used to be one of those smart-alecky young conservatives who would scoff at the notion of “white male privilege” and claim that anyone propagating such concepts was guilty of “political correctness.” As a Jewish refugee from the Soviet Union, I felt it was ridiculous to expect me to atone for the sins of slavery and segregation, to say nothing of the household drudgery and workplace discrimination suffered by women. I wasn’t racist or sexist. (Or so I thought.) I hadn’t discriminated against anyone. (Or so I thought.) My ancestors were not slave owners or lynchers; they were more likely victims of the pogroms.

I saw America as a land of opportunity, not a bastion of racism or sexism. I didn’t even think that I was a “white” person — the catchall category that has been extended to include everyone from a Mayflower descendant to a recently arrived illegal immigrant from Ireland. I was a newcomer to America who was eager to assimilate into this wondrous new society, and I saw its many merits while blinding myself to its dark side.

Well, live and learn. A quarter century is enough time to examine deeply held shibboleths and to see if they comport with reality. In my case, I have concluded that my beliefs were based more on faith than on a critical examination of the evidence. In the last few years, in particular, it has become impossible for me to deny the reality of discrimination, harassment, even violence that people of color and women continue to experience in modern-day America from a power structure that remains for the most part in the hands of straight, white males. People like me, in other words. Whether I realize it or not, I have benefitted from my skin color and my gender — and those of a different gender or sexuality or skin color have suffered because of it.

This sounds obvious, but it wasn’t clear to me until recently. I have had my consciousness raised. Seriously.

This doesn’t mean that I agree with America’s harshest critics — successors to the New Left of the 1960s who saw this country as an irredeemably fascist state that they called “AmeriKKKa.” Judging by historical standards or those of the rest of the world, America remains admirably free and enlightened. Minorities are not being subject to ethnic cleansing like the Rohingya in Burma. Women are not forced to wear all-enveloping garments as in Saudi Arabia. No one is jailed for criticizing our supreme leader as in Russia.

The country is becoming more aware of oppression and injustice, which have long permeated our society, precisely because of growing agitation to do something about it. Those are painful but necessary steps toward creating a more equal and just society. But we are not there yet, and it is wrong to pretend otherwise. It is even more pernicious to cling to the conceit, so popular among Donald Trump’s supporters, that straight white men are the “true” victims because their unquestioned position of privilege is now being challenged by uppity women, gay people, and people of color.

I used to take a reflexively pro-police view of arguments over alleged police misconduct, thinking that cops were getting a bum rap for doing a tough, dangerous job. I still have admiration for the vast majority of police officers, but there is no denying that some are guilty of mistreating the people they are supposed to serve. Not all the victims of police misconduct are minorities — witness a blonde Australian woman shot to death by a Minneapolis police officer after she called 911, or an unarmed white man shot to death by a Mesa, Arizona, officer while crawling down a hotel hallway — but a disproportionate share are.

The videos do not lie. One after another, we have seen the horrifying evidence on film of cops arresting, beating, even shooting black people who were doing absolutely nothing wrong or were stopped for trivial misconduct. For African-Americans, and in particular African-American men, infractions like jaywalking or speeding or selling cigarettes without tax stamps can incite corporal, or even capital, punishment without benefit of judge or jury. African-Americans have long talked about being stopped for “driving while black.” I am ashamed to admit I did not realize what a serious and common problem this was until the videotaped evidence emerged. The iPhone may well have done more to expose racism in modern-day America than the NAACP.

Of course, the problem is not limited to the police; they merely reflect the racism of our society, which is not as severe as it used to be but remains real enough. I realized how entrenched this problem remains when an African-American friend — a well-educated, well-paid, well-dressed woman — confessed that she did not want to walk into a department store carrying in her purse a pair of jeans that she planned to give to a friend later in the day. Why not? Because she was afraid that she would be accused of shoplifting! This is not something that would occur to me, simply because the same suspicion would not attach to a middle-aged, middle-class white man.

The larger problem of racism in our society was made evident in Donald Trump’s election, despite — or because of — his willingness to dog-whistle toward white nationalists with his pervasive bashing of Mexicans, Muslims, and other minorities. Trump even tried to delegitimize the first African-American president by claiming he wasn’t born in this country, and now he goes after African-American football players who kneel during the playing of the anthem to protest police brutality. (Far from being concerned about police misconduct, which disproportionately targets people of color, Trump actively encourages it.)

Adam Serwer argues persuasively in the Atlantic that Trump’s election could not be explained by “economic anxiety,” because the poorest voters — those making less than $50,000 a year — voted predominantly for Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, “Trump defeated Clinton among white voters in every income category,” from those making less than $30,000 to those making more than $250,000. In other words, Serwer writes, Trump does not lead a “working-class coalition; it is a nationalist one.” That doesn’t mean that every Trump supporter is a racist; it does mean that Trump’s victory has revealed that racism and xenophobia are more widespread than I had previously realized.

As for sexism, its scope has been made plain by the horrifying revelations of widespread harassment, assault, and even rape perpetrated by powerful men from Hollywood to Washington. The Harvey Weinstein scandal has opened the floodgates, leading to the naming and shaming of a growing list of rich and powerful men — including Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Roy Moore, and John Conyers — who are alleged to have abused their positions of authority to force themselves upon women or, in some cases, men.

As with the revelations of police brutality, so too with sexual harassment: I am embarrassed and ashamed that I did not understand how bad the problem is. I had certainly gotten some hints from my female friends of the kind of harassment they have endured, but I never had any idea it was this bad or this common — or this tolerated. Even now, while other men are being fired for their misconduct, Trump continues to sit in the Oval Office despite credible allegations of sexual assault from nearly 20 different women.

I now realize something I should have learned long ago: that feminist activists had a fair point when they denounced the “patriarchy” for oppressing women. Sadly, this oppression, while less severe than it used to be, remains a major problem in spite of the impressive strides the U.S. has taken toward greater gender equality…

…If the Trump era teaches us anything, it is how far we still have to go to realize the “unalienable Rights” of all Americans to enjoy “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” regardless of gender, sexuality, religion, or skin color.””

A Conversation With White People On Race | Op-Docs | The New York Times

A Conversation About Growing Up Black | Op-Docs | The New York Times

Click here to see more New York Times Op Docs “Conversations on Race

Conversation with My Black Son
A Conversation with Police on Race
A Conversation with Black Women on Race
A Conversation with Latinos on Race
A Conservation with Asian-Americans on Race
A Conservation with Native Americans on Race

Kyle Kover: Privileged

When the police break your teammate’s leg, you’d think it would wake you up a little.

When they arrest him on a New York street, throw him in jail for the night, and leave him with a season-ending injury, you’d think it would sink in. You’d think you’d know there was more to the story.

You’d think.

But nope.

I still remember my reaction when I first heard what happened to Thabo. It was 2015, late in the season. Thabo and I were teammates on the Hawks, and we’d flown into New York late after a game in Atlanta. When I woke up the next morning, our team group text was going nuts. Details were still hazy, but guys were saying, Thabo hurt his leg? During an arrest? Wait — he spent the night in jail?! Everyone was pretty upset and confused.

Well, almost everyone. My response was….. different. I’m embarrassed to admit it.

Which is why I want to share it today.

Before I tell the rest of this story, let me just say real quick — Thabo wasn’t some random teammate of mine, or some guy in the league who I knew a little bit. We’d become legitimate friends that year in our downtime. He was my go-to teammate to talk with about stuff beyond the basketball world. Politics, religion, culture, you name it — Thabo brought a perspective that wasn’t typical of an NBA player. And it’s easy to see why: Before we were teammates in Atlanta, the guy had played professional ball in France, Turkey and Italy. He spoke three languages! Thabo’s mother was from Switzerland, and his father was from South Africa. They lived together in South Africa before Thabo was born, then left because of apartheid.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Thabo was one of the most interesting people I’d ever been around. We respected each other. We were cool, you know? We had each other’s backs.

Anyway — on the morning I found out that Thabo had been arrested, want to know what my first thought was? About my friend and teammate? My first thought was: What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back??

Yeah. Not, How’s he doing? Not, What happened during the arrest?? Not, Something seems off with this story. Nothing like that. Before I knew the full story, and before I’d even had the chance to talk to Thabo….. I sort of blamed Thabo.

I thought, Well, if I’d been in Thabo’s shoes, out at a club late at night, the police wouldn’t have arrested me. Not unless I was doing something wrong.

Cringe.

It’s not like it was a conscious thought. It was pure reflex — the first thing to pop into my head.

And I was worried about him, no doubt.

But still. Cringe.

A few months later, a jury found Thabo not guilty on all charges. He settled with the city over the NYPD’s use of force against him. And then the story just sort of….. disappeared. It fell away from the news. Thabo had surgery and went through rehab. Pretty soon, another NBA season began — and we were back on the court again.

Life went on.

But I still couldn’t shake my discomfort.

I mean, I hadn’t been involved in the incident. I hadn’t even been there. So why did I feel like I’d let my friend down?

Why did I feel like I’d let myself down?


A few weeks ago, something happened at a Jazz home game that brought back many of those old questions.

Maybe you saw it: We were playing against the Thunder, and Russell Westbrook and a fan in the crowd exchanged words during the game. I didn’t actually see or hear what happened, and if you were following on TV or on Twitter, maybe you had a similar initial viewing of it. Then, after the game, one of our reporters asked me for my response to what had gone down between Russ and the fan. I told him I hadn’t seen it — and added something like, But you know Russ. He gets into it with the crowd a lot.

Of course, the full story came out later that night. What actually happened was that a fan had said some really ugly things at close range to Russ. Russ had then responded. After the game, he’d said he felt the comments were racially charged.

The incident struck a nerve with our team.

In a closed-door meeting with the president of the Jazz the next day, my teammates shared stories of similar experiences they’d had — of feeling degraded in ways that went beyond acceptable heckling. One teammate talked about how his mom had called him right after the game, concerned for his safety in SLC. One teammate said the night felt like being “in a zoo.” One of the guys in the meeting was Thabo — he’s my teammate in Utah now. I looked over at him, and remembered his night in NYC.

Everyone was upset. I was upset — and embarrassed, too. But there was another emotion in the room that day, one that was harder to put a finger on. It was almost like….. disappointment, mixed with exhaustion. Guys were just sick and tired of it all.

This wasn’t the first time they’d taken part in conversations about race in their NBA careers, and it wasn’t the first time they’d had to address the hateful actions of others. And one big thing that got brought up a lot in the meeting was how incidents like this — they weren’t only about the people directly involved. This wasn’t only about Russ and some heckler. It was about more than that.

It was about what it means just to exist right now — as a person of color in a mostly white space.

It was about racism in America.

Before the meeting ended, I joined the team’s demand for a swift response and a promise from the Jazz organization that it would address the concerns we had. I think my teammates and I all felt it was a step in the right direction.

But I don’t think anyone felt satisfied.


There’s an elephant in the room that I’ve been thinking about a lot over these last few weeks. It’s the fact that, demographically, if we’re being honest: I have more in common with the fans in the crowd at your average NBA game than I have with the players on the court.

And after the events in Salt Lake City last month, and as we’ve been discussing them since, I’ve really started to recognize the role those demographics play in my privilege. It’s like — I may be Thabo’s friend, or Ekpe’s teammate, or Russ’s colleague; I may work with those guys. And I absolutely 100% stand with them.

But I look like the other guy.

And whether I like it or not? I’m beginning to understand how that means something.

What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color….. I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it. Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin.

In other words, I can say every right thing in the world: I can voice my solidarity with Russ after what happened in Utah. I can evolve my position on what happened to Thabo in New York. I can be that weird dude in Get Out bragging about how he’d have voted for Obama a third term. I can condemn every racist heckler I’ve ever known.

But I can also fade into the crowd, and my face can blend in with the faces of those hecklers, any time I want.

I realize that now. And maybe in years past, just realizing something would’ve felt like progress. But it’s NOT years past — it’s today. And I know I have to do better. So I’m trying to push myself further.

I’m trying to ask myself what I should actually do.

How can I — as a white man, part of this systemic problem — become part of the solution when it comes to racism in my workplace? In my community? In this country?

These are the questions that I’ve been asking myself lately.

And I don’t think I have all the answers yet — but here are the ones that are starting to ring the most true:

I have to continue to educate myself on the history of racism in America.

I have to listen. I’ll say it again, because it’s that important. I have to listen.

I have to support leaders who see racial justice as fundamental — as something that’s at the heart of nearly every major issue in our country today. And I have to support policies that do the same.

I have to do my best to recognize when to get out of the way — in order to amplify the voices of marginalized groups that so often get lost.

But maybe more than anything?

I know that, as a white man, I have to hold my fellow white men accountable.

We all have to hold each other accountable.

And we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions, but also for the ways that our inaction can create a “safe” space for toxic behavior.

And I think the standard that we have to hold ourselves to, in this crucial moment….. it’s higher than it’s ever been. We have to be active. We have to be actively supporting the causes of those who’ve been marginalized — precisely because they’ve been marginalized.


Two concepts that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately are guilt and responsibility.

When it comes to racism in America, I think that guilt and responsibility tend to be seen as more or less the same thing. But I’m beginning to understand how there’s a real difference.

As white people, are we guilty of the sins of our forefathers? No, I don’t think so.

But are we responsible for them? Yes, I believe we are.

And I guess I’ve come to realize that when we talk about solutions to systemic racism — police reform, workplace diversity, affirmative action, better access to healthcare, even reparations? It’s not about guilt. It’s not about pointing fingers, or passing blame.

It’s about responsibility. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “equality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is equality for a certain group of people. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “inequality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is slavery, and its aftermath — which is still being felt to this day. It’s about understanding on a fundamental level that black people and white people, they still have it different in America. And that those differences come from an ugly history….. not some random divide.

And it’s about understanding that Black Lives Matter, and movements like it, matter, because — well, let’s face it: I probably would’ve been safe on the street that one night in New York. And Thabo wasn’t. And I was safe on the court that one night in Utah. And Russell wasn’t.


But as disgraceful as it is that we have to deal with racist hecklers in NBA arenas in 2019? The truth is, you could argue that that kind of racism is “easier” to deal with.

Because at least in those cases, the racism is loud and clear. There’s no ambiguity — not in the act itself, and thankfully not in the response: we throw the guy out of the building, and then we ban him for life.

But in many ways the more dangerous form of racism isn’t that loud and stupid kind. It isn’t the kind that announces itself when it walks into the arena. It’s the quiet and subtle kind. The kind that almost hides itself in plain view. It’s the person who does and says all the “right” things in public: They’re perfectly friendly when they meet a person of color. They’re very polite. But in private? Well….. they sort of wish that everyone would stop making everything “about race” all the time.

It’s the kind of racism that can seem almost invisible — which is one of the main reasons why it’s allowed to persist.

And so, again, banning a guy like Russ’s heckler? To me, that’s the “easy” part. But if we’re really going to make a difference as a league, as a community, and as a country on this issue….. it’s like I said — I just think we need to push ourselves another step further.

First, by identifying that less visible, less obvious behavior as what it is: racism.

And then second, by denouncing that racism — actively, and at every level.

That’s the bare minimum of where we have to get to, I think, if we’re going to consider the NBA — or any workplace — as anything close to part of the solution in 2019.


I’ll wrap this up in a minute — but first I have one last thought.

The NBA is over 75% players of color.

Seventy-five percent.

People of color, they built this league. They’ve grown this league. People of color have made this league into what it is today. And I guess I just wanted to say that if you can’t find it in your heart to support them — now? And I mean actively support them?

If the best that you can do for their cause is to passively “tolerate” it? If that’s the standard we’re going to hold ourselves to — to blend in, and opt out?

Well, that’s not good enough. It’s not even close.

I know I’m in a strange position, as one of the more recognized white players in the NBA. It’s a position that comes with a lot of….. interesting undertones. And it’s a position that makes me a symbol for a lot of things, for a lot of people — often people who don’t know anything about me. Usually, I just ignore them. But this doesn’t feel like a “usually” moment.

This feels like a moment to draw a line in the sand.

I believe that what’s happening to people of color in this country — right now, in 2019 — is wrong.

The fact that black Americans are more than five times as likely to be incarcerated as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black Americans are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black unemployment rates nationally are double that of overall unemployment rates is wrong. The fact that black imprisonment rates for drug charges are almost six times higher nationally than white imprisonment rates for drug charges is wrong. The fact that black Americans own approximately one-tenth of the wealth that white Americans own is wrong.

The fact that inequality is built so deeply into so many of our most trusted institutions is wrong.

And I believe it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.

So if you don’t want to know anything about me, outside of basketball, then listen — I get it. But if you do want to know something? Know I believe that.

Know that about me.

If you’re wearing my jersey at a game? Know that about me. If you’re planning to buy my jersey for someone else…… know that about me. If you’re following me on social media….. know that about me. If you’re coming to Jazz games and rooting for me….. know that about me.

And if you’re claiming my name, or likeness, for your own cause, in any way….. know that about me. Know that I believe this matters.

Thanks for reading.

Time for me to shut up and listen.

UU World: Of course I’m racist

“Early on, I could tell I was not the sermon’s intended audience. The speaker was discussing very subtle racism, the kind that only deep and careful introspection can uncover. As delicately as possible, she was encouraging the white members of the congregation (which was nearly all of us) to make that introspection, and to consider the unfortunate possibility that—in spite of being good Unitarian Universalists, in spite of a lifetime spent thinking antiracist thoughts—maybe, just maybe, we might find something.

I never know what to do with talks like this, because my own racism just isn’t that subtle. Of course I’m a racist. I was brought up racist, and though I believe I’ve made a lot of progress over the decades, I know I still have a long way to go. I am often disappointed when I spot some new aspect of racism in myself, but I am never shocked.

I grew up in the white working class, in a small factory town surrounded by miles and miles of farmland. My father worked in one of those factories and farmed a small plot of that land; my mother was a housewife. Neither had ever been to college. It was the 1960s, and the civil rights movement was something happening on TV. We didn’t think it had anything to do with us.

The racism of my home and neighborhood wasn’t the hot, boiling-over kind they make movies about, but a room-temperature racism that fit behind a facade of Midwestern niceness: enforcing segregation by law, as they still did in the South, was too heavy-handed, but God must have had His reasons for making us different. Those who hated other races were misguided, but wariness and suspicion were just common sense. Any problem that only affected the black community just didn’t seem serious; surely they must have brought it on themselves somehow. And while it was possible to recognize exceptions to white superiority—as in “I don’t much care for Negroes, but LeRoy is all right”—those exceptions didn’t challenge the rule.

In my neighborhood, kids told racist jokes, using all the words of the genre. If some (not all) of our parents and teachers disapproved, it wasn’t because such talk was hurtful and wrong, but because it was uncouth, like saying ain’t. The point of toning it down wasn’t to be more tolerant, but to avoid sounding like white trash.

From my all-white grade school I progressed to an integrated high school, where I made acquaintance with the few non-whites who were in the college prep courses I took. I, too, practiced Midwestern niceness, but I spurned any overtures of deeper friendship. Already insecure of my own place in the social hierarchy, I wasn’t brave enough to risk adding their baggage to mine.

Eventually, I went to college and then graduate school, and then entered a professional-class world where my entire upbringing (not just the racist parts) was considered benighted. When you change social classes, whether voluntarily or not, everything comes up for renegotiation. Nothing you do or say is exactly right in the new setting, so you have to decide what is or isn’t essential to your identity.

For me, abstract racist ideas were easy to abandon, the associated habits and responses less so. The personal, Bible-based God of my youth had seemed like baggage for a while, and so I wandered through a variety of liberal religions, eventually settling down as a UU.During that process, though, I never had a “Road to Damascus” moment, where the scales of racism fell from my eyes and I imagined that I might go and sin no more. To me, racism hasn’t been one big thing that could be rejected all at once. Rather, it has been like burrs that have to be picked off of my clothing and out of my hair one by one, and that keep showing up in cuffs and collars long after I think I’ve found the last of them.

Now at the age of 60, I still haven’t found the last of them, and I’ve come to doubt that I ever will. Even after decades marinating in an egalitarian philosophy, and living among a church community in which overt racism is unacceptable, many of my racist instincts remain. My snap judgments of black people continue to be more sweeping and negative than my judgments of similar whites. If a black driver cuts me off in traffic, my anger flashes hotter. If a black clerk or waitress is slow to serve me, I’m less likely to consider the kind of day she’s had and more likely to assume character flaws like laziness or sullen resentment. When I am at my best, I can block these impulses before they lead to regrettable actions. But I haven’t been able to eliminate them.

So as I listen to white UUs who were so well brought up, and whose racism is so subtle that they have only discovered it recently through careful self-examination, I can’t help feeling another unworthy response: jealousy. I have to control an urge to say something cynical and walk away, leaving them to their higher enlightenment.

Instead, let me pass on one lesson my lengthier struggle has taught me. Racism isn’t like a bacterial infection that falls to an intense course of antibiotics and is never seen again. Racism is a chronic condition like hypertension or diabetes. Given proper attention, it need not be debilitating. But once you find it in yourself, don’t expect that you will ever be rid of it. “

 —

Privilege as a Zero-Sum Game

“When a person of color receives a benefit, like a scholarship, it feels like feels like something is taken away from white people” MTV Look Different: White People

“to the extent that white people believe that racism against blacks has decreased, they also believe that racism against whites has increased. They really see it as kind of a fixed pie of resources, a zero-sum game. One job for a black person equals one job that a white person didn’t get” Michael Norton, Harvard

Reality

  • 21 million people apply for financial aid every year
    • Undergraduate college students
      • 62% are white students but receive 69% of private scholarships
      • 38% are minorities but receive 31% of private scholarships
    • Even with affirmative action
      • Whites students 40% more likely receive financial aid
      • Blacks and Hispanics are more underrepresented at top colleges than 35 years ago
  • Affirmative Action in the workplace
    • There has never been a time in the US when white men did not have the highest employment rates, highest pay rates, and weren’t the most powerful group in America
    • “It is easier for a white man with a criminal record to get hired than it is for a black man with no criminal background. According to Pew Research, even when adjusted for education and experience, the black unemployment rate is consistently twice that of whites. Even having a black name can make one unhirable. All of this is true even with affirmative action mandates in place.” Michael Harriot, Affirmative Action
  • Affirmative Action
    • Policy that ensures qualified minority applicants
      • Are given the same employment and college opportunities as white people
    • It is a flexible program:
      • No quotas or preferential treatment for people of color
      • No one is required to hire/accept an unqualified person of color
        • Companies and schools are suppose to explain why they didn’t hire/accept a qualified applicant of color
          • Rarely ever enforced
        • Only applied to public companies and colleges
      • White women have been the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action

 —

Impacts on People of Color from White People not Understanding Race

AfroPunk: Having white friends comes with trauma I’m not willing to deal with anymore

“I can’t answer anymore White People demanding an explanation for why something is “racist”. I can’t take anymore White People sending me videos of Black People being murdered without thinking of how it will affect me. I can’t sit through any more arguments for why race “isn’t always a factor”. And I can’t keep ignoring the cowardice silence when it’s time for White People to confront each other about race.

My dad warned me about White People when I was around 7 or 8. He told me that no matter how close I felt to these people, I would always be first and foremost Black in their mind. And at no time could a Black person rely on a White person to put their privilege on the side if it ever becomes a Me vs. Them situation. As a kid, this was, frankly, another one of my dad’s pessimistic, paranoid lectures. Be on the lookout at all times just…in case. And as an outgoing, compassionate human-being his words rolled off my back. But in time I’ve learned that Daddy-o was onto something and the ugly truth is that in one way or another, White friends, largely, just aren’t safe to have…

…With every close relationship I’ve had with a White person, their unconscious but blatant biases against and misunderstandings of Black People, in particular, tends to reveal itself sooner or later. Unprompted and accepting admissions that their Good White parents aren’t racist but would never “let” them date a black person, the tokenizing, the microaggressions, and dismissals of Black pain. The emotional labor, the holding back, the shrinking required to put up with the willful ignorance and mismanaged guilt and resentment of White People is too much.

And the fact of the matter is that I’m finding it impossible to trust any White Person to not, at some point, perpetuate ideologies that oppress me. Being friends with White People is just too fucking hard on my psyche.”

Write Some Shit: Dear White People: You Can STILL Be Racist If…

“For some (and by some I mean many) White people and ANYONE ELSE that says, “I am not racist because fill in the blank” please check the following list.

YOU CAN BE STILL BE RACIST IF…

  1. You sleep with someone that is Black.
  2. You fetishize and love Black dick.
  3. You have birthed a child that is of mixed race.
  4. You have adopted a Black child.
  5. Your best friend is Black.
  6. Your mother’s cousin’s brother’s sister is married to a Black person.
  7. You are educated.
  8. You love Kendrick Lamar.
  9. You voted for Obama once.
  10. You voted for Obama twice.
  11. You would vote for Obama a third time if you could.
  12. You allow Black people at your dinner table.
  13. You listen to rap music.
  14. You Milly Rock on any block.
  15. You can Hit Dem Folks.
  16. You made a protest sign.
  17. You love Beyonce and know all the moves to Single Ladies.
  18. You marched in ANY march in 2017.
  19. You knitted a pink pussycat hat.
  20. Your family didn’t own slaves.
  21. You are a principal at a predominantly Black school.
  22. You are a teacher at a predominantly Black school.
  23. You voted for Hillary Clinton.
  24. You supported Bernie Sanders.
  25. You post #TrustBlackWomen.
  26. You support Black activists online.
  27. You did any type of missionary work in Africa.
  28. You donate to the NAACP.
  29. You retweet Black Lives Matter’s hashtags.
  30. You consider the White people that voted for Trump “those people” and not you and your friends.
  31. You know all the words to Bodak Yellow but censor the n-word.
  32. Your response to Black activism is, “I support your efforts I just wish you did it another way.”
  33. You support Colin Kaepernick protesting but wish he just didn’t protest during the games.
  34. You don’t repeat racist jokes.
  35. You quote Martin Luther King Jr. and Audre Lorde.
  36. You dream about sleeping with Idris Elba.
  37. You own black fleshtone sex toys.
  38. You identify as someone in a marginalized group.
  39. You are Christian.
  40. You don’t see race.

I know it may be difficult to read this list because you may have believed that some of these things made you immune to being racist. They don’t. History is filled with White men and women that thought they were not racist when in fact we know that not to be the case.  Even today, there are many White men and women that truly believe they stand on the side of goodness and righteousness. However, that is not the case.

Check your actions.

Look in a mirror. 

Examine your heart.

Because there is where the truth resides”

Note to My White Self: One Last Try At Explaining Racism To White People

“While hatred can certainly cause someone to be racist, hatred is not at the core of America’s racial malaise.  It is the inconsistency, inattention, carelessness and power of white people that has entrenched racism so deeply into our societal systems.

Inconsistency

Inconsistency in behavior is at the heart of all racism. While most white people do not actively seek to harm people of color, we are quite comfortable treating people of color differently than other white people. We do this so unconsciously that we aren’t even aware of our bias.  Yet this bias has been demonstrated scientifically again and again.

Studies have repeatedly found that police officers pull over people of color at a much higher rate than white people. Juries convict more people of color.  Judges pass harsher sentences.  Landlords are less likely to rent to people of color.  Banks make loans at a higher rate of interest.  Job applicants with minority sounding names are less likely to be interviewed.  I could go on and on.

These inconsistencies are evidence of a racial bias. While they may not be intentional or conscious, they are still racist.  When someone responds to the killing of people of color by the police with Facebook posts declaring “Blue Lives Matter,” but posts nothing when a black officer kills a white woman, that inconsistency reveals their racism.  Blue is not the color motivating their behavior.

We don’t have to hate people of color to be racist. We just have to treat them differently than we would treat another white person.  Racism – at its core – is an inconsistent application of basic human rights and privileges, or the tolerance thereof.

Inattention

Inattention is another sign of rampant racism. To push my earlier analogy further, being a negligent spouse – while less destructive than being an abusive one – still exposes a lack of affection and concern.  Yet many white people, though we do not actively seek to harm people of color, are perfectly willing to ignore, diminish or tolerate the unjust treatment of people of color.  Quite simply, for many white people, even when we acknowledge racism in our society, it isn’t worth our time and attention.

White people often tell me that since they have not actively caused the injustices done to people of color they have no responsibility to rectify them. Yet what would we think of a person who, upon finding out that their spouse was being mistreated at work, responded, “I’m not the one mistreating them so it isn’t my responsibility.”  If we care about someone, we take the injustices they experience personally.

A lack of national outrage over the historic and current racial inequities in America is ample evidence of this deeply entrenched racism. We don’t have to hate people of color to be racist.  We only need to look the other way when they are mistreated.  This inattention reveals both a lack of compassion and a lack of identification.  They are not like us; therefore their treatment is of little concern.  Racism thrives on this inattention.

Carelessness

Carelessness – in every sense of the word – defines the racism of most white people. We don’t hate people of color.  We simply “care less” about the racial injustices of our present system.   We refuse to look carefully at our own prejudices for signs of latent racism.  By defining racism as hatred, we can ignore all of our daily micro-aggressions toward people of color.

This careless attitude about the struggles of people of color may seem rather harmless, but it is insidious in its ugliness. Indeed, in some ways, hatred toward people of color is more respectful.  At least hatred acknowledges them as a legitimate threat and opponent.  When white people treat people of color carelessly, we demonstrate a deeper disdain.  They are not even worth our emotional investment.  We care less because they are worth less.

Power

Finally, no thorough discussion of racism can avoid questions of power.  While any person of any color can be inconsistent, inattentive and careless in their attitudes and behaviors toward people of a different color, only those with power can systematically damage and diminish the lives of those whom they disdain.  In a society where white people have controlled the levers of power, racism is a direct product of white society.

White people can be inconsistent, inattentive and careless in their behavior toward people of color with little risk or consequence.  We can treat a Latino worker with disrespect without censure.  We can be inattentive to a police officer without danger.  We can be careless about racism without any effect on our quality of life.  This is not true for people of color.  A person of color who complains about disrespect is often fired.  A person of color who is inattentive to a police officer can be killed.  A person of color who is careless in their interactions with white people will eventually be punished.  This power differential turns common bias and prejudice into an uniquely white ailment – systemic racism.”

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The White Moderate: The Greatest Threat to Freedom

Words from Martin Luther King’ Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

VT: Lesson on Privilege

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Further Readings

Back to Top


White Culture (Whiteness)

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“And as we consider “whiteness,” it is important to realize that it was created, defined and continues to be perpetuated in opposition to something else – “blackness.”” Food Solutions New England

“But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming ‘the people’ has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the belief that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes , which are indelible–this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, to believe that they are white.” TaNehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Systemic White Culture

Privilege

“Racism is based on the concept of whiteness–a powerful fiction enforced by power and violence. “Whiteness” is a constantly shifting boundary separating those who are entitled to have certain privileges from those whose exploitation and vulnerability to violence is justified by their not being white” Paul KivelOakland Men’s Project

Systemic and Normative

“Whiteness is a social and institutional status and identity imbued with legal, political, economic, and social rights and privileges that are denied to others.” Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility

Invisible to the Privileged

“Whiteness is a set of normative privileges granted to white-skinned individuals and groups; it is normalized in its production/maintenance for those of that group such that its operations are ‘invisible’ to those privileged by it (but not to those oppressed/disadvantaged by it)” CARED

“Your survival has never depended on your knowledge of white culture. In fact, it’s required your ignorance. The dominant culture does not have to see itself to survive because culture will shift to fit its needs.” Ijeoma Oluo

Complicity

“This club, known as Whiteness, was designed to offer advantages, some small and some large, to light-skinned Europeans in exchange for their complicity in the theft of Indigenous land and the enslavement and exploitation of non-White people” Jamie Utt

Ignorant of the True Cost of the American Dream

“It’s important, then, that we as White people understand this identity creation story because in this history lies an understanding of the privileges so many of us call the “American Dream” – something disproportionately available to people considered White. Does this mean that people of Color haven’t realized this “Dream?” No. It just means that this “Dream” has been a nightmare for most people of Color built upon genocide, exclusion, and slavery.” Jamie Utt – Everyday Feminism

Anti-Blackness

“Anti-blackness is rooted in misinformation, fables, perversions, projections, and lies. It is also rooted in a lack of historical knowledge and an inability or unwillingness to trace the effects of history into the present. But perhaps most fundamentally, anti-blackness comes from deep guilt about what we have done and continue to do; the unbearable knowledge of our complicity with the profound torture of black people from past to present. While the full trauma of this torture in its various forms, both physically and psychologically, is only borne by African Americans, there is a kind of moral trauma in it for the white collective. “Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility

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Healing from Whiteness: What I Mean When I Say ‘White’

One of the things that makes conversations around racism hard is this term ‘white’.
As soon as a conversation about ‘white people’ emerges there is bound to be some push back.
And that’s understandable.
How can it be okay to make sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people based just on their skin colour? Isn’t this the height of racism itself? After all, sure, the KKK might be white but so are Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Starhawk and Deena Metzger.
How can we lump people together and, so confidently, talk about them as one entity?
And why is it that, in radical circles, these conversations are so often angry in tone and seemingly shaming of ‘white people’?
These are fine questions to ask and questions that must be asked.
The crux of the matter comes down to the understanding of the history of what is meant when the word ‘white’ is used.
First of all, what’s not being referred to is skin colour. Or, at least, not exactly.
Here’s the history that we are taught: white people came over from Europe on boats to North America and built up society together. There were some rough spots with the indigenous people here and with black people but that’s all over now and we’re all equal and so why is anyone still talking about race when we’re all one big happy human family?
Of course, that never happened.
White people didn’t come from Europe. Europeans came from Europe. More specifically, French, Dutch, Slovenian, Croation and Austrians etc. came over from Europe.
They became white here. And they became white for a particular reason.
This is crucial to understand.
The short story is this: whiteness began in North America. But it did not refer to skin colour. It was a mark of status and privilege. The rich British were white. The poor Irish, Scottish, Jews, Ukrainians were not. This is critical to understand. Whiteness began as a club into which you were born. Only later, and as a tactic to divide the lower classes along ‘racial’ lines, did everyone with my skin colour become ‘white’.
So, being ‘white’ (as opposed to Polish, Italian etc.) began as a system to privilege. And it continues to be this.
It’s easy to imagine that European = white. That those two have always been the same. But it’s not true. Whiteness is what was used to cover up any remnants of European indigeneity.
The term ‘white’ comes from particular places and time in history and many laws, institutions and policies came from those times and places that were designed for the benefit of white men.
Whiteness is inseparable from white supremacy. White supremacy is the father of whiteness and notions of ‘race’, created from and driven by a desire to justify the hungry-ghost urge to rule the world and to dehumanize those who were in the way of this happening, are the grandparent. This is where ‘white’ comes from. The notion that humans are divided into different races and that the ‘white’ race is the best and most beautiful of them all.
 
“… the process of naming “the people” has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible—this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.” ― Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
This does not mean all white people are, in their hearts, racist as much as it means that all white people have become ‘racialized’. It doesn’t mean that white people are bad as much as it means that they have been on the receiving and conceiving end of a very bad culture.
This culture is much more easily seen by people of colour and indigenous people of all skin tones than it is for people of my skin colour living in North America which was built by and for white men.
And so I have no interest in shaming white people. But I have a deep interest in naming ‘whiteness’ for what it is: a trauma visited upon Europeans that led to a trauma on everyone who was not white.
One of my friends wrote to me, many months ago to say, “I don’t consider “whiteness” something to be healed from anymore that I consider “femaleness” something that I need to be healed from.” And, of course, most don’t.
If you were to ask me, “Do you think that there’s a sickness inherent in people of European descent? Are they bad?” I would say, “No,” very strongly.
If you asked me if I thought that white people should feel guilty, ashamed and berate themselves for what their ancestors did, I would also say, “No.”
Should white people grovel and apologize for their very existence? No.
If you were to ask me if I thought that the social construct of whiteness was something from which we needed to heal? I would say “yes”.
Should white people reject the colour of their skin or their ancestors in an attempt to run from their privilege? No. Better to use it to change the system that granted those privileges to them.
White people should not be shamed but whiteness must be named for what it is.
Whiteness is not the core of how you or I showed up on this planet. It’s the lable that was put onto us. It’s a system into which we were born. This is vital to understand: racism isn’t so much something inside us, it’s something we’re inside of.
When I say ‘white’ I do not mean skin colour. I mean the result of the system which decided to break the world up by ‘skin colour’ and ‘race’. When I say ‘white’ I’m trying to tether a rope from history to  this conversation make sure it can be followed back to the place and time from whence it came.
The heartbreak that white people must face is that we are all treated better by this society at large because of the colour of our skin and people of colour are, on the whole, treated worse. This is invisible to white people. We don’t see the privileges we live with and we don’t see the privileges from which they were borne. Whiteness was the mark of privilege when it came into the world. It still is.

And so the road ahead for white people is a difficult one: how do you contend with the reality that you are seen as better and more worthy than people of colour? What does it mean when we want to come together and put down false notions of race and the rest of the world won’t let us? What does it mean when we are seen as ‘white’ in a society that values white people above all else – even when we don’t want to be? When white people say they want everyone to be treated the same regardless of their skin colour well… amen. That’s what many people have been fighting for for years. And so, what are you going to do about it beyond moaning and wishing it weren’t so? And what is ‘it’ that you want to change?

If you hate being lumped into a group of people, don’t look at me. I’m not the one who lumped you into it. I’m the one trying to name the lump into which we’ve all been thrown and then asking, “What do we want to do about this?”

We may have had nothing to do with the history of this and yet we still benefit from it. We might not have created the systems of racism and yet, we remain on the receiving end of the benefits they create. And so, what are we going to do about it?

White identity came from privilege and was extended to preserve that privilege.

Whiteness was and is a system that privileges white men above all else.

If you agree with me that such a system exists, do you want to stop me from talking about it because you wish it weren’t so, or do you want to change the system itself?
How can it be okay to make sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people based just on their skin colour? Well, it’s not, but that’s what this culture does.
How can we lump people together and, so confidently, talk about them as one entity? This culture does it to us all of the time. It lables us all as ‘white’ and then treats us better because of it.
How can we lump people together and, so confidently, talk about them as one entity? Because white culture does have certain hallmarks to it, because it is, on the whole, recognizable to those who are not white.
Is it possible to have white skin and not act in accordance with the roots of ‘white culture’? Yes. The fate of our world depends on it.
Why is it that, in radical circles, these conversations are so often angry in tone and seemingly shaming of ‘white people’? Because there are centuries of pain there. It’s understandable.
What do we do when we realize that ‘white’ culture bears almost no resemblance to the indigenous European cultures from which we all came? What do we do when we realize that the world ‘white’ does not mean what we thought it meant?
When I say ‘white’ I’m not just talking about skin colour. I’m talking about why skin colour came to mean what it means in the world today so that we can do something about it.

Ijeoma Oluo: ‘I am drowning in whiteness’

…when you can see your identity clearly as it is, the good and the bad; when you can see where your whiteness is more than your heritage, more than just culture, but also a system of oppression, you then have the power to do the work to redefine it to something that you can be proud of.

You can’t fake it. You cannot just pick up the positive and say that that’s all that there is. This will be uncomfortable and it will be painful.

But if you continue to do the work, you will have a sense of authenticity in yourself that you have never known. You will stop having to steal all of our stuff. You will have your own stuff!

And that’s really what I need you to do. I don’t need someone standing right next to me doing what I’m doing. If black people could end racism, we would have ended racism. We have died trying to end systemic racism. I need you to do the work in your community. And it starts with looking at the day-to-day things.

What will kill me may not be a cop. It will be my lack of access to quality medical care. It will be my lack of access to quality education. It will be the loans that I am denied. It will be all of the thousands of cuts that people of color endure every single day in white supremacist society. And that is where your life intersects with it.

Every time you go through something, and it’s easy for you, look around and say, “Who is it not easy for? And what can I do to dismantle that system?” But in order to do that, you have to be willing to look at it and see it as a part of the system of whiteness because that’s what it is.

And then eventually you will not be so tense. You will not be so defensive, because you will know that even if you aren’t there, you are actually doing concrete things to make whiteness something that helps instead of hurts. And I know you can do that. I’ve seen what white people can do when they put their minds to things.

Cared: Understanding Whiteness

“To understand the history of the ideology of ‘race,’ and combating racism today, involves understanding (and challenging) ‘whiteness’ as the foundation of racial categories and racism.

At first glance, it may seem that in common usage in Alberta, the word ‘white’ is used to refer specifically to ‘skin colour’ or ‘race.’  Initially, this might seem like reverting back to, or reinforcing, the old (and racist) categories of European imperialism, and in some cases, it may in fact be meant that way! (We are profoundly concerned, for example, by the increase in neo-Nazi/white supremacist activity in our province.) In our experience, however, we have found that when people refer to ‘white people’ (either in self-identifying, or identifying individuals/groups), it is in fact being used as a shorthand reference to whiteness, about which people may have varied understandings you will need to clarify.  In other words, it is being used as a shorthand for the privileges/power that people who appear ‘white’ receive, because they are not subjected to the racism faced by people of colour and Indigenous people.

As with the term ‘race,’ it is important to clarify the differences between “white” (a category of ‘race’ with no biological/scientific foundation) and “whiteness” as a powerful social construction with very real, tangible, violent effects. Here are some useful definitions of ‘whiteness,’ followed by a list of its key features:

Racism is based on the concept of whiteness–a powerful fiction enforced by power and violence. Whiteness is a constantly shifting boundary separating those who are entitled to have certain privileges from those whose exploitation and vulnerability to violence is justified by their not being white (Kivel, 1996, p. 19).

‘Whiteness,’ like ‘colour’ and ‘Blackness,’ are essentially social constructs applied to human beings rather than veritable truths that have universal validity. The power of Whiteness, however, is manifested by the ways in which racialized Whiteness becomes transformed into social, political, economic, and cultural behaviour. White culture, norms, and values in all these areas become normative natural. They become the standard against which all other cultures, groups, and individuals are measured and usually found to be inferior (Henry & Tator, 2006, pp. 46-67).

Drawing on the important work of Ruth Frankenberg (1993), the authors of Teach Me to Thunder: A Manual for Anti-Racism Trainers, write that whiteness is

a dominant cultural space with enormous political significance, with the purpose to keep others on the margin….white people are not required to explain to others how ‘white’ culture works, because ‘white’ culture is the dominant culture that sets the norms. Everybody else is then compared to that norm….In times of perceived threat, the normative group may well attempt to reassert its normativity by asserting elements of its cultural practice more explicitly and exclusively. (21)

An example of this normative whiteness was the furor concerning Baltej Singh Dhillon’s fight to wear a turban, for religious reasons, as part of his RCMP uniform. The argument that the Mountie uniform was a ‘tradition’ that should not be changed belied white Canadians’ perceptions of Sikh people and communities of colour as ‘threatening’ their position of privilege in Canada.

Key Features of Whiteness 

Whiteness is multidimensional, complex, systemic and systematic:

  • It is socially and politically constructed, and therefore a learned behavior
  • It does not just refer to skin colour but is ideology based on beliefs, values behaviors, habits and attitudes, which result in the unequal distribution of power and privilege based on skin colour (Frye, 1983;  Kivel, 1996)
  • It represents a position of power where the power holder defines the categories, which means that the power holder decides who is white and who is not (Frye, 1983)
  • It is relational. “White” only exists in relation/opposition to other categories/locations in the racial hierarchy produced by whiteness. In defining ‘others,’ whiteness defines itself.
  • It is fluid – who is considered white changes over time (Kivel, 1996)
  • It is a state of unconsciousness: whiteness is often invisible to white people, and this perpetuates a lack of knowledge or understanding of difference which is a root cause of oppression (hooks, 1994)
  • It shapes how white people view themselves and others, and places white people in a place of structural advantage where white cultural norms and practices go unnamed and unquestioned (Frankenberg, 1993). Cultural racism is founded in the belief that “whiteness is considered to be the universal . . . and allows one to think and speak as if Whiteness described and defined the world.” (Henry & Tator, 2006, p. 327)

White versus Whiteness

  • race is scientifically insignificant.
  • race is a socially constructed category that powerfully attaches meaning to perceptions of skin colour; inequitable social/economic relations are structured and reproduced (including the meanings attached to skin colour…) through notions of race, class, gender, and nation.
  • whiteness is a set of normative privileges granted to white-skinned individuals and groups; it is normalized in its production/maintenance for those of that group such that its operations are ‘invisible’ to those privileged by it (but not to those oppressed/disadvantaged by it); it has a long history in European imperialism and epistemologies (for those who are of mixed ancestry and ‘pass’ as white, this normativity, I would assume, would not occur).
  • distinct but not separate from ideologies and material manifestations of ideologies of class, nation, gender, sexuality, and ability.
  • the meaning of ‘whiteness’ is historical and has shifted over time (ie Irish, southern European peoples-Italian, Spanish, Greek; have at times been ‘raced’ as non-white).”

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Beverly Daniel Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race

“At the contact stage, the first step in the process, Whites pay little attention to the significance of their racial identity. As exemplified by the “I’m just normal” comment, individuals at this point of development rarely describe themselves as White. If they have lived, worked, or gone to school in predominantly White settings, they may simply think of themselves as being part of the racial norm and take this for granted without conscious consideration of their White privilege, the systematically conferred advantages they receive simply because they are White.

While they have been breathing the “smog” and have internalized many of the prevailing societal stereotypes of people of color, they typically are unaware of this socialization process. They often perceive themselves as color-blind, completely free of prejudice, unaware of their own assumptions about other racial groups. In addition, they usually think of racism as the prejudiced behaviors of individuals rather than as an institutionalized system of advantage benefiting Whites in subtle as well as blatant ways. Peggy McIntosh speaks for many Whites at the contact level when she writes, “I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.”

While some Whites may grow up in families where they are encouraged to embrace the ideology of White superiority (children of Klan members, for example), for many Whites this early stage of racial identity development represents the passive absorption of subtly communicated messages. Robert Carter, another racial identity researcher, illustrates this point when he quotes a forty-four-year-old White male who grew up in upstate New York, where he had limited direct contact with Blacks…

…At the disintegration stage, White individuals begin to see how much their lives and the lives of people of color have been affected by racism in our society. The societal inequities they now notice directly contradict the idea of an American meritocracy, a concept that has typically been an integral part of their belief system. The cognitive dissonance that results is part of the discomfort which is experienced at this point in the process of development, Responses to this discomfort may include denying the validity of the information that is being presented, or psychologically or physically withdrawing from it. The logic is, “If I don’t read about racism, talk about racism, watch hose documentaries or special news programs, or spend time with ose people of color, I won’t have to feel uncomfortable…

…Another source of the discomfort and anger that Whites often experience in this phase stems from the frustration of being seen as a group member, rather than as an individual. People of color learn early in life that they are seen by others as members of a group. For Whites, thinking of oneself only as an individual is a legacy of White privilege. As McIntosh writes, “I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race…

I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race…. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my group.” In short, she and other Whites are perceived as individuals most of the time.

The view of oneself as an individual is very compatible with the dominant ideology of rugged individualism and the American myth of meritocracy. Understanding racism as a system of advantage that structurally benefits Whites and disadvantages people of color on the basis of group membership threatens not only beliefs about society but also beliefs about one’s own life accomplishments. For example, organizational consultant Nancie Zane writes that senior White male managers “were clearly invested in the notion that their hard work, ingenuity and skills had won them their senior-level positions.” As others talked about the systemic racist and sexist barriers to their own achievement, “white men heard it as a condemnation that they somehow didn’t deserve their position. If viewing oneself as a group member threatens one’s self-definition making the paradigm shift from individual to group member will be painful.

In the case of White men, both maleness and Whiteness are normative, so acknowledging group status may be particularly difficult. Those White women who have explored their subordinate gender identity have made at least some movement away from the notion of a strictly individual self-definition and may find it easier to grasp the Significance of their racial group membership.”

“Individualism today has been recast as a justification for opposing policies to ameliorate racial inequality because they are “group based” rather than “case by case.” In addition, the idea of individual choice is used to defend whites’ right to live and associate primarily with whites (segregation) and for choosing whites exclusively as their mates. The problem with how whites apply the notion of individualism to our present racial conundrum is that a relation of domination-subordination still ordains race relations in the United States (see chapters 1 and 4 in my White Supremacy and Racism in the Post Civil Rights Era). Thus, if minority groups face group-based discrimination and whites have group-based advantages, demanding individual treatment for all can only benefit the advantaged group.30 And behind the idea of people having the right of making their own choices” lays the fallacy of racial pluralism–the false assumption that all racial groups have the same power in the American polity. Because whites have more power, their unfettered, so-called individual choices help reproduce a form of white supremacy in neighborhoods, schools, and society in general.” Eduardo Bonilla-Silva: Racism without Racists

“At the outset of this chapter I argued that whites live a white habitus that creates and conditions their views, cognitions, and even sense of beauty and more importantly, fosters a sense of racial solidarity. This postulate fits the arguments and findings of the status construction and social identity theories. Whereas work in the social identity tradition has amply demonstrated how little it takes to create antagonistic groups, work in the status construction tradition has shown that once there are two or more status groups in a social system, those at the top tend to adjudicate the status differences to nominal characteristics such as race and gender. Research in these traditions has also uncovered that when status differences between groups exist, as in the case between whites and blacks, the advantaged group develops its own “groupthink,” values, and norms to account for and rationalize these differences.

In this chapter I documented three things related to the white habitus, First, I showed that whites experience tremendous levels of racial segregation and isolation while growing up. That isolation continues in college and in the workplace, even when blacks are present in these environments. Second, I documented how whites, for the most part, do not interpret their racial isolation and segregation from blacks as racial. Instead, they either do not see any need to explain this or explain it as a nonracial matter (“Race has nothing to do with it” or “That’s the way things are”). Lastly, I examined their answers to the interracial marriage question and suggested that they are an example of what the white habitus produces, as they signify, despite the color-blind rhetoric, that whites are not very likely to engage in interracial unions with blacks.

The social psychology produced by the white habitus leads to the creation of positive self-views (“We are nice, normal people”) and negative other views (“They are lazy”).41 The more distant the group in question is from the white “norm.” other things being equal, the more negative whites will view the group. Because blacks are the group farthest from whites residentially and socially in this country2-although not necessarily culturally43_they are the most likely candidates for debasement.44 In previous chapters I documented how whites see blacks in a negative light. For example, they regard blacks as lazy, as welfare-dependent, and as receiving preferential treatment. They also believe blacks complain too much about racism and discrimination. This negative view of blacks extends to the most personal realm: close interracial associations as friends and significant others. Although most whites rely on color blindness (“race doesn’t matter”), a free-market logic on human relationships (“if two people are in love”), and liberal individualism (“I don’t think that anyone should have the right to tell anyone else whether or not they should marry’) to articulate their views on interracial marriage, few seem to support.” Eduardo Bonilla-Silva: Racism without Racists

MTV White People Documentary

MTV Look Different: White People

  • What its like to be white
    • Feeling that things belong to you
    • White is “good” or the “norm”
    • Can’t bring up race issues w/ parents
    • Feels like white people get discriminated against
    • Never had to internalize what white people have done in this country
    • Uncomfortable to talk about race
    • Don’t have to show people you’re one of the “good” ones of your race
    • Don’t go outside of white group
      • Don’t know what its like outside
      • Don’t know about issues that effect non-white people

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  • 3 out of 4 white Americans say society would be better off if we never acknowledged race
  • Less than 1 out of 3 white people say they talked about race with their family
  • 4 our of 5 white people say they feel uncomfortable discussing racial issues

MTV/David Binder Research

PRRI: Race, Religion, and Political Affiliation of Americans’ Core Social Networks

  • Segregation today
    • Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) studies found
      • A typical white person lives in a neighborhood that is 77% white and 8% black
      • A typical black person lives in a neighborhood that is 35% white and 45% black
      • 75% of whites have all white social networks with no person of color

The Required White Ignorance of White Culture

Ijeoma Oluo: White People: I Don’t Want You To Understand Me Better, I Want You To Understand Yourselves

“From the moment I was born my life has been steeped in whiteness. Not just the MTV I grew up with or the Disney characters I loved, but the white history I learned from white teachers, the white art I learned to revere above all else, the beauty standards I knew I’d never live up to. I know what songs y’all like the most, who your biggest movie stars are, how you achieve the hottest hairstyles in your magazines, what fashion you’re appropriating. I know what your “ideal” family looks like, what your definition of “American values” is. I know what you find funny and romantic. I know your definitions of success.

But it’s more than that, much more. I had to learn to talk to my white teachers in a way that didn’t seem “too boisterous,” and I learned why enthusiasm would be disruptive from me yet welcomed by white boys. I had to learn what level of eye contact with cops seemed respectful, what seemed evasive, and what seemed challenging. I had to learn why clerks in the grocery store were following me. I had to learn why the same white people who clutch their purse around me when they have a coin will come running to me for help when they don’t.

I know what “articulate” really means. I know what “thug” really means. I know what the words “tough on crime” will do to you and us. I had to learn why a black President scared the shit out of so many of you. I had to learn how many times I could voice my opinion in a work meeting before I was labeled “difficult.” I had to learn how loud I could raise my voice before I was labeled “threatening.” I know why so many of you want to say “nigger” so bad. I know what face you make when you are about to shout it at me. I had to learn why so many of you think that people like me are why you are poor. I know why you co-opt our movements. I know why you still expect a thank you. I had to learn why your needs are default but mine are “divisive.” I had to learn how to not get suspended by white teachers, how to not get arrested by white cops, how to not get fired by white supervisors.

And to know all of that about you, I had to learn how race was invented as a function of capitalism to justify the brutality of genocide and forced free labor. I had to learn how slavery was repurposed into the prison industrial complex and the school-to-prison pipeline. I had to learn how your police force was created to return black people to slavery and maintained to control brown and black populations to manufacture a false sense of white security. I had to learn how the Southern Strategy was able to capitalize on the racism that you dared not see in yourselves, even though we could see it clear as day. I had to learn how the Irish became white when we could not. I had to learn how you could claim to rightfully own stolen land and how you still can today.

You have not had to know these things; even if you studied some of these topics in school, you did not have to know them. People of color, on the other hand, have lost so much when we’ve gotten it wrong. We have been fired for wearing our hair in ways you don’t like, for not hiding our bodies that you decided to hypersexualize, for having too many opinions, for answering too honestly, for using our own accents and dialogue instead of yours, for believing you when you said you didn’t tolerate racism in the workplace, for teaching history you refuse to acknowledge, for celebrating our beauty that you don’t want to see. We have died for walking with a certain swagger, for reaching for our wallets, for asking for help, for speaking with the wrong tone, for giving a menacing look, for playing our music too loud, for not walking away, for walking away, for marching in peace.

Your survival has never depended on your knowledge of white culture. In fact, it’s required your ignorance. The dominant culture does not have to see itself to survive because culture will shift to fit its needs. This shift is cheaper and easier when you don’t look too closely at how it’s being accomplished — if you never ask who is picking up the check. And no, you hardly see us at all — even if you love us. You can’t; we don’t exist as whole people in most of the places that you have been getting your information from.

And as much as I’d like you to see me — as much as I’d like systemic racism to simply be a problem of different groups not seeing each other — I need you to see yourself, really see yourself, first. This is the top priority.

Because I and so many people of color have had to stand by and watch you declare we live in a post-racism world when Obama was elected, when we could see how much of the legacy of slavery and brutality was still lodged deep in your bones. I had to watch the Tea Party rise from your fear of losing the centuries-long promise that you’d always get more because we’d always get less, all while you brushed it off as fringe lunacy. I had to watch you high-five each other and celebrate an election already won while I could see that your parents, your uncle, maybe even your spouse was going to vote for White Supremacy, because deep down part of them knew that they didn’t earn all that they enjoy in this world, and in a couple of years they wouldn’t have the votes to protect the parts they stole.

And when the election for the extension of White Supremacy was won, I had to watch you say that it was not White Supremacy, it was the economy or it was identity politics or it was the Clinton legacy. And when white people across America started doing Nazi salutes in high school gymnasiums and political gatherings, when white people started adding swastikas to their profile pictures and painting swastikas on walls, I had to watch you turn to the nearest person of color and ask, “how did this happen?”

And while I get it — I understand how the entire history of this blood-soaked racist country and its entrenched self-delusion would lead us here — I do not actually know what it will take to get you to see it as well.

Because we have been trying, very, very hard, to show you. None of this — not a single word I’ve written in this essay or in my entire career — is new. People of color have been begging you to see what you are doing and why. We’ve been begging you to see what you came from and the true legacy you have inherited. We’ve begged you to see your boot on our necks as long as it’s been there.

Find yourselves white people. Find yourselves so that you can know what whiteness is. Find yourselves so that you can determine what you want whiteness to be. Find yourselves so that you can stop your loved ones from voting for a definition of whiteness that you no longer want to subscribe to. Find yourselves so that racism no longer surprises you.  “

The Secret History of America: Douchebag: The White Racial Slur We’ve All Been Waiting For

“White privilege is the right of whites, and only whites, to be judged as individuals, to be treated as a unique self, possessed of all the rights and protections of citizenship. I am not a race, I am the unmarked subject. I am simply man, whereas you might be a black man, an asian woman, a disabled native man, a homosexual latina woman, and on and on the qualifiers of identification go. With each keyword added, so too does the burden of representation grow.

Sometimes the burden of representation is proudly shouldered, even celebrated. But more often this burden of representation becomes a dangerous, racist weight, crushing and unbearable. Michael Brown was killed in part because of this burden (the stereotype of black male criminality), and his body continues to carry this weight as the protests mount (the martyred symbol that black lives matter).

But white men are just people. Normal. Basic Humanity. We carry the absent mark which grants us the invisible power of white privilege. Everyone else gets some form of discrimination.”

History of Whiteness

Dismantling Racism Project Western States Center: A History: The Construction of Race and Racism

Defining Ethnicity & Nationality

(These terms are often confused with race)

Ethnicity refers to particular groups of people that share some common ancestry, traditions, language, or dialect. Before the world was made up of distinct nation-
states or countries, certain pieces of land were associated with ethnic groups. Some examples are:
•Anglos and Saxons – England
•Maori – New Zealand
•Mayan – Southern Mexico/Central America
•Greeks – Greece
•Masai – the Great Rift Valley of East Africa
•Pueblo– New Mexico
As some countries were made up mostly one ethnic group, people began to conclude that
nationality (the country which a person is a citizen of) was the same as ethnicity, i.e. a person from Denmark is a Dane or Danish. But more often the name of the country doesn’t refer to the ethnic origins of its citizens. A person from Spain would be thought of as “Spanish”, although their ethnicity could be Basque, Catalan, Gallego or Gitano. Many countries like Spain are actually made up of diverse ethnic groups. The United States is a perfect example of this reality.
Many people like to make ethnic distinctions as well as national distinctions to hold on to their ethnic culture and identity.
•Italian-American – (Ethnicity is Italian and nationality is US American)
•Mexican-American
•Chinese-American – (Ethnicity is Chinese and nationality is US American)
Of course, ethnicity becomes more confusing in the process of immigrati on and assimilation. As an example, we know in the case of China there are many many ethnicities and that diversity gets lost often in how people identify their ethnic identity to non-Chinese people here in the U.S. So although a Chinese-American’s specific ethnicity may be Han, Manchu, Yi or another of the over 50 ethnicities in China, here in the United States those differences get subsumed as being “Chinese.”

What is this thing called Race?

Race is a false classification of people that is not based on any real or accurate biological or scientific truth. In other words, the distinction we make between races, has nothing to do with scientific truth.

Race is a political construction. A political construction is something created by people; that is not a natural development; is constructed or created for a political purpose.

The concept of race was created as a classification of human beings with the purpose of giving power to white people and to legitimize the dominance of white people over non-white people.

Click here to  learn the different ways race was constructed in History

This Thing Called WHITE
The term white emerged as a classification of people during the 1700s in the British colonies of North America. Europeans were immigrating to “the New World” for many reasons, some seeking prosperity while many people were escaping persecution, particularly religious and ethnic conflict. As Europeans arrived in America, groups such as Germans, Dutch, English, French etc. were brought into close proximity, most of them for the first time. In the colonies, the European settlers in power were under considerable stress, attempting to maintain control of their African Slaves and their white indentured servants, while trying to protect themselves from the perceived
threat from Native Americans. At this time, poor white indentured servants were building alliances and relationships with African slaves due to their similar state of oppression.
The term white was defined as anyone without a drop on African or Indian blood. The category white was created as a political construct that was used as an organizing tool to unite Europeans in order to consolidate strength, increasing their ability to maintain
control and dominance over the Native Americans and African slaves, which in many places outnumbered Europeans. “Whiteness is a constantly shifting boundary separating those who are entitled to have certain privileges from those whose exploitation and vulnerability to violence is justified by their not being white.”
White is an artificial construct because the definition of white changes due to time and geography.
  • Not everybody has been considered white at the same time. Irish, Jews, Italians for example went through a process of becoming white. This was a process of assimilation that required certain cultural losses in order to gain white privilege and power.
  • Some people who may have been considered white where they once lived (South America for example) when they moved to the U.S. were then considered latino by white society.
  • But just because race and whiteness are constructed, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t fundamentally affect our world in real ways
The Term People of Color
People of color’ is not a term that refers to a real biological or scientific distinction between people. People of color in the U.S. share the common experience of being targeted and oppressed by racism. Unfortunately, one of the ways racism operates is to keep people of color divided. Many people only think about their specific ethnic or racial group when discussing oppression or the need to build political power. By using the term people of color, we begin to push people to think more broadly. We need to build relationships with other groups of color. The term people of color has movement-building potential.”

Understanding Race: The Story of Race Transcript

“How did the idea of race begin in America?  The answer can be found in the long and complex history of western Europe and the United States. It is that history—influenced by science, government and culture—that has shaped our ideas about race.

When European colonists first arrived on North American shores beginning in the 1500s, the land was already inhabited by Native Americans. The Spanish, French and English encountered frequent conflicts with indigenous people in trying to establish settlements in Florida, the Northeast area bordering Canada, the Virginia colony, and the Southwest.
By the 1600s, English colonists had established a system of indentured servitude that included both Europeans and Africans.

But by the time of Bacon’s Rebellion in the mid-1670s—an insurrection involving white and black servants against wealthy Virginia planters—the status of Africans began to change. They were no longer servants who had an opportunity for freedom following servitude, but instead were relegated to a life of permanent slavery in the colonies.

In the 1770s, English colonists in the U.S. became involved in a rebellion of their own—this time the opposition was the British Crown.

But while the colonists battled the British for independence, they continued to deny Africans their freedom and withhold rights to Native Americans. Ironically, one of the first casualties of the Revolutionary War was Crispus Attucks, a runaway slave of African and Indian parentage.

Before the idea of race emerged in the U.S. European scientist Carolus Linneaus published a classification system in System Naturale in 1758 that was applied to humans. Thomas Jefferson, was among those who married the idea of race with a biological and social hierarchy.  Jefferson, a Virginia slave owner who helped draft the Declaration of Independence and later became President, was influential in promoting the idea of race that recognized whites as superior and Africans as inferior. Jefferson wrote in 1776 in Notes on the State of Virginia, “…blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” Scientists were among those who were influenced by these ideas, and began to develop their own theories about race.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, scientists, influenced by Enlightenment philosophers, developed a system of categorizing things in nature, including humans.

Although Carolus Linnaeus was the first to develop a biological classification system, it was German scientist Johann Blumenbach who first introduced a race-based classification of humans, which established a framework for analyzing race and racial differences for the next hundred years.

By the 19th century the debate over race centered around two theories: one theory was that different races represented different species; the other was that humans were one species and that race represented variation in the human species—a view that was compatible with the teachings of the Bible.

Among those who espoused the multiple species theory, or polygeny, were Philadelphia physician Samuel Morton and European scholar Louis Agassiz. Their work was popular in the mid-19th century. The most prominent scientist who believed in monogeny, that all humans were one species, was Charles Darwin.

By the mid-19th century scientific debates over race had entered the mainstream culture and served to justify slavery and mistreatment. Some, like plantation doctor Samuel Cartwright tried to explain the tendency of slaves to runaway by coining the term, drapetomania, and prescribed whipping as method of treatment. Though there was resistance to slavery in both the U.S. and Europe, scientists, for the most part, continued to advance theories of racial inferiority.

The abolitionist movement of the 19th century sought to humanize the plight of African slaves in various ways, to influence political power and public opinion. The resistance to slavery and the image of Africans as sub-human can be found in protest hymns like Amazing Grace, which was written by John Newton in 1772 in response to the horrors he witnessed working on an English slave ship.

One of the ways that race played out in popular culture was in the publication in 1852 of the most widely read novel of its time, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which depicted a more realistic portrait of slavery and tried to humanize slaves.

The 19th century also marked a period of widespread racialization—not just of African Americans—but of Native Americans, Mexican Americans and Chinese Americans as well. Much of the racializing of non-Europeans, and even the Irish, served an economic and political purpose. African slavery, for instance, provided free labor and added political clout for slaveholding states in the South.

Taking Native American land and belittling Native American cultures was made easier by defining Native people as savages.

At the end of the 19th century, the U.S. experienced another wave of European immigration. This time the immigrants were southern and eastern Europeans and their presence challenged ideas about race, specifically who was white and who was not. Unlike earlier European immigrants who were mostly German, Scandinavian and Irish, these newer immigrants were Polish, Italian and Jewish, and brought with them customs and traditions that were different from their European predecessors.

They were often the victims of discrimination. Even U.S. immigration policy tried to limit the number of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe by imposing quotas.

At the beginning of the 20th century, African Americans migrated north for factory jobs that opened up during World War I and to escape the violence in the South.

Between 1889 and the early 1920s, roughly 50 – 100 lynchings a year took place in the U.S. While blacks were mostly the victims, Italian Americans, Asian Americans and Jews were also lynched. Even in the North, blacks encountered racism as they competed with whites for jobs. Several northern cities—St. Louis, Tulsa, Detroit and Chicago among others—were the sites of major race riots from 1915 to the early 1920s.

During the Depression, some race scientists sought to justify economic and social inequality by attributing certain characteristics such as criminal behavior, work ethic and intelligence to race, using a theory of genetic inheritance. In other words, you were poor or a criminal or less intelligent because it was in your genes.

This idea was the basis for eugenics. Charles Davenport, the director of the Eugenics Records Office, was among the scientists who promoted these ideas. The eugenicists’ expert testimony was influential in getting Congress to pass the Immigration Act of 1924 and provided the social framework embraced by Nazi Germany.

By World War II, the U.S. had expanded the racial categories in the census to include various ethnic groups, among them Mexicans, Japanese, Indians from Asia and Philippinos. These categories and the demographics associated with each group would be used to limit immigration as well as provide the statistical data to analyze racial discrimination in the U.S. that followed in the post-war era.

The 1950s and 60s were a time of enormous social change in the U.S. Discrimination and institutional racism were being challenged at every turn. To some extent, the racial and social hierarchies that had long been accepted were being contested. And perhaps more slowly, attitudes about race and racial difference were beginning to change.

The way we view race and ethnicity today is far more complex than the simple categories in the first U.S. Census. In fact in the 2000 census the “mark one or more” standard allowed for 63 possible racial combinations, reflecting the diversity of the country. By the year 2010, the U.S. population will barely resemble what it was 400, 100,even twenty years ago. That means we will probably have to reconsider the term race, and whether it is relevant to describing who and what we are.”

Everyday Feminist: 4 Ways the American Dream Is Actually Just Affirmative Action for White People

“As highlighted by scholars like Dr. Jacqueline Battalora and Dr. Nell Irvin Painter, Whiteness didn’t always exist.

In fact, prior to the 1690s, “White” people were unheard of.

Wealthy, land-owning Europeans created the category of Whiteness as a tool to divide poor, light-skinned Europeans from enslaved African people and Indigenous people in North America.

Since that time, it has taken on a life of its own and been embedded in every single structure of the US.

This club, known as Whiteness, was designed to offer advantages, some small and some large, to light-skinned Europeans in exchange for their complicity in the theft of Indigenous land and the enslavement and exploitation of non-White people.

Notably, not all light-skinned Europeans were initially considered White (Italians and the Irish didn’t join the club until well into the 20th century, and European Jews have only recently been able to join).

Whiteness has evolved over time, but its singular aim has been to ensure that certain people (wealthy, White men mostly) hold power built upon the exploitation of people of Color and, to a lesser degree, poor White people.

It’s important, then, that we as White people understand this identity creation story because in this history lies an understanding of the privileges so many of us call the “American Dream” – something disproportionately available to people considered White.

Does this mean that people of Color haven’t realized this “Dream?” No. It just means that this “Dream” has been a nightmare for most people of Color built upon genocide, exclusion, and slavery.

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Healing from Whiteness: On The Conjuring of People of Colour

It’s a staggering thought when it first occurs to you: There were no people of colour before white people. They didn’t exist.
Nigerians existed. Chinese people existed. Indigenous people existed. Mexicans existed. But the diversity of those, and hundreds more specific people was never considered as one monolithic group until ‘white people’ came into existence.
‘People of colour’ were conjured by the use of words (long understood by traditional, deeply cultured people to have conjuring power).
It’s the same way that nomads were created by farmers. Said another way, there was never one group of people out there wandering around with a shared language, set of traditions and way of seeing the world. There were just groups of humans doing their thing, being human beings. But once certain humans settled and began growing food, there were now two groups: those who settled (the farmers) and those who did not (the Nomads).
Similarly, before Christians there were no Pagans. As author James J. O’Donnell points out in his book Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity that the use of this term ‘pagan’ by Christians had immense consequences,

“Not only have you made pagans seem like a real group, you have, in distinguishing yourself, become un-pagan, with special qualities. Until that label [pagan] was created, though, pagans didn’t exist. There were people who lived here and there, people who spoke this or that language, people who were rich or poor, people who attended this or that festival because they enjoyed it, and people who were so tired and poor and ill that they just go through the day as best they could. It was the Christian who came along and called all those people by one name. Christian common identity was strengthened by the shared conviction that the us/them relationship was real. ‘They’ didn’t much care… People became pagans when it was convenient to Christians for them to do so… In the end, the term pagan succeeded in making Christianity seem a unique, un-pagan, modern entity.”

In his book, On Trails: An Exploration, Robert Moor writes,

“It may sound strange (even sacriligious) to some, but in a very real way, wilderness is a human creation. We create it in the same sense that we create trails; we do not create the soil or the plants, the geology or topology (although we can, and do, shift these things). Instead, we delineate the palce, by defining its boundaries, its meaning and its use… ‘Civilization,’ wrote the historian Roderick Nash, ‘invented wilderness.’ According to his account, the wilderness was born a the dawn of agro-pastoralism, when we began cleaving the world into binary categories of wild and tame, natural and cultivated. Words for wilderness are notably absent among the languages of hunter-gatherer peoples. (‘Only to the white man,’ wrote Luther Standing Bear, ‘was nature a wilderness.’) From the vantage point of a farmer, the wilderness was a strange, barren land, full of poisonous plants and deadly animals, anti-thetical to the warmth and security of home. To these land-tamers, wilderness became synonymous with confusion, wickedness, and suffering. William Bradford, the governor or the Plymouth Colony, was representative of the mindset when he deemed the uncolonized countryside, ‘A hideous and desolate wildness full of wild beast and wild men.’”

It was the same when the Romans colonized the British who colonized the Scottish who colonized the indigenous people of what is now called North America (another diversity banishing conjuring) all calling the one being colonized ‘savages’ and all calling themselves ‘civilized’.
Colonization: the gift that keeps on giving.  And so when the white race was constructed (banishing all of the diversity of European culture) it created the binary to it of those who were not white at first divided into various subgroups of negro, mongoloid, caucausoid etc.) and then eventually ‘people of colour’.
This is not a term that those who weren’t white came up with by themselves. There was no congress in which people with more melanin than the majority of the upper class British got together to say, “Are you tired of being your own people? Isn’t it a drag to be from somewhere and have your own language? Aren’t sick of being proud of your ancestors? Can I see a show of hands? Me too. I say let’s stop that backwards nonsense and be from nowhere and just refer to ourselves by the darkness of our skin. Can I get someone to make a motion? Great. Thank you. And will anyone second that?… Done! Great. Next motion up: “Dark skin is a sign of inferiority. Anyone willing to make the case for internalizing this message? It makes sense to me.”
White people created whiteness.
The term ‘people of colour’, as a group, came from this. ‘People of colour’ were conjured by white people. But the nature of the spell wasn’t to make anything appear. It was to make uniqueness disappear. That was the dark magic of it. This is part of what we are contending with when we attempt to have conversations about racism.

Medium: Countering Whiteness

For five years, I have been leading district-wide racial justice work in my school district. Much of this work has focused on ethnic studies curriculum, which centers the histories and experiences of people and communities of color, although that’s not what makes it anti-racist. Ethnic studies is anti-racist because in telling these stories and experiences, it deconstructs the systems of power that lead to racism. The thing is, when I go out into my district and talk to teachers and administrators, I often hear, “How does ethnic studies help white students?”

First, white people have ethnicities too. White people also have cultures that are diverse in both ethnic identities and cultural practices. I struggled to understand why white people denied having a race, ethnicity, or culture until I shifted my reading from race and racism to whiteness and the creation of whiteness. Through laws, policy, and practices, white people have been taught to exchange their ethnic and cultural identities for the benefit of “whiteness.” Our history tells us racism is the result of whiteness, not of race. john a. powell of the University of California, Berkeley explains that being white was originally defined as not being black. In response to Bacon’s Rebellion, an uprising of European indentured servants and black enslaved Africans in colonial America, elite Europeans created the white race to drive a wedge between the two groups and prevent further uprisings. This is when “Europeans” became white, giving up their ethnic and cultural identities, and whiteness became a sought-after power structure. White indentured servants were still economically oppressed, but their new status brought with it a sense of power and superiority; thus, whiteness created racial oppression. This pattern has continued throughout our history in the United States. For example, the creation of the Federal Housing Administration restricted housing opportunities to “whites only,” so people who were previously considered “ethnic” groups, like Jewish Americans, chose to forgo identification as an ethnic group and instead selected whiteness. Ta-Nehisi Coates refers to this phenomenon as “the people who believe they are white.” Participation in this system requires the belief that being white is somehow outside of ethnicity, culture, and sometimes even race, creating an environment in which white people study racism as if it’s something outside of their personal experiences. Using whiteness instead of racism puts the onus for action back on white people.

In response to all the pushback I’ve received in this work, I no longer talk about “racism” but about “whiteness.” I define whiteness as “the cultural values, norms, behaviors, and attitudes that uphold White Supremacy.” White people can’t turn their backs on whiteness, but they try: when I bring it up they want to revert to ethnic identities. I get asked things like, “Can you please stop calling me white? I’m European-American.” I say, “No.” As Ijeoma Oluo says, this work isn’t about the comfort of white people.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about why the language we use when discussing oppression, particularly racial oppression, is important and how we can change our language to hold people accountable for the deep reflection required to be anti-racists.

Colorblindness is a cancer. You think you have cured it, but later find out it’s moved to another part of our language. Words like culture, diversity, inclusion, equity, and even justice have all been co-opted to avoid talking about race and racism. Using the term “whiteness” in place of racism directly counters this phenomenon and places the accountability on white people by forcing them to look in the mirror and see how they are not only “part of the problem” but central to systems of power and oppression. I have found when white people are consistently confronted with their whiteness, they are more likely to move from “ally” to accomplice in fighting whiteness.

This pressure for accountability on white people is especially important in education. In the United States, white teachers make up 85 percent of the teaching force. In my state, Washington, it’s 90 percent. Students of color are quickly becoming the majority in the country, and yet they go to school oftentimes never seeing a person like them at the front of the class. Students of color continue to be pushed out and disciplined at higher rates. Seattle Public Schools has the fifth-largest disparity gap in discipline between black students and white students in the country. In Seattle Public Schools, 46 percent of the student population is white while 75 percent of the teachers are white. This is a problem that the vastly white teaching force needs to address.

Using whiteness instead of racism reminds white people they have an ethnicity too, and they’ve lost a piece of their humanity by perpetuating whiteness. In response to the teachers who ask how ethnic studies help white students, I and others say, “White people need ethnic studies more than anyone.” I appreciate the way Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade talks about this. He uses the phrase “la cultura cura”: culture cures, or culture is medicine. He says when we lose our culture we become sick and start to hurt other people. Paolo Freire writes about how the act of oppressing others necessarily requires a person to give up their own humanity. White people need to find their medicine and restore their own humanity so they can stop hurting others.

People of color cannot be racist but they can engage in whiteness. I do not believe people of color can be racist. Never in history has any non-white group had the systemic power to oppress whites or any other group of people. There are certainly examples of discriminatory practices between people and groups of color, but racism occurs on a systemic level. This does not mean that people of color do not engage in whiteness. We certainly do. Every person who grew up in the United States, regardless of ethnic identity, has been exposed to messages of anti-blackness and messages that convey “white is right.” From housing practices, to media representation, to racist and white-washed curricula in school, the message is clear: It’s better to be white in America. Beverly Daniel Tatum calls this immersion in racist messaging a fog that we all live in and breathe in.

I am Xicanx, and I have seen firsthand how many Xicanx and Latinx people have bought into whiteness and engaged in whiteness. White supremacy is such a powerful concept that non-white people will betray our own people in attempts to benefit from it. Recent polling data shows that 25–30 percent of Latinx people support Donald Trump despite his racist, anti-Latinx migrant rhetoric. Those 25–30 percent of Latinx people are engaging in whiteness. They are trying to tap into the power that whiteness provides certain people.

Using the phrase “engaging in whiteness” holds all people accountable for upholding and maintaining whiteness. It requires all of us to do reflective work and understand how our practices and beliefs are oppressing people. Being a person of color does not give you a free pass from anti-racist work. Whiteness can show itself in people of color who maintain the status quo to benefit from status, promotions, and to avoid criticism. This may include “acting white” or changing one’s behavior and/or language to gain respectability and legitimacy from white peers and colleagues, like referring to oneself as “Hispanic.” I hate the term “Hispanic” because it’s a white-washed identifier, referring to any person whose native language is Spanish, including white Europeans. People of color engage in whiteness by promoting white-normed practices, like individualism over collectivism, passive aggressiveness, and decontextualizing racialized experiences.

Our young people are inundated with messages of whiteness — from the president, to cartoons, to textbooks. All kids receive the message that it’s better to be white. Whether intentional or not, erasure of people of color in these contexts erases our humanity. We have so little value that children’s’ literature portrays more anthropomorphic characters than characters of color. According to children’s’ literature, it’s better to be a dog than a person of color. We need to be the people countering those messages, not reinforcing them. Words matter. How we use words and phrases determines how we act, and words have the power to change people from objects to agents. Whiteness turns us all into agents of anti-racism: it applies to all of us and centers the responsibility on white people to take on the majority of the work to change our racist systems.

CBS: What makes Trump’s tweets racist? A historian explains

When President Trump tweeted on Sunday that “‘Progressive’ Democratic Congresswomen” — an apparent reference to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley, who are all women of color — should “go back” to their countries, the backlash was swift. It also sparked another conversation: What makes something racist?

Ibram Kendi, a professor and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, joined “CBS This Morning” to address that question from a historical perspective and discuss whether racist actions or words make someone a racist.

Kendi explained the important historical context behind telling a person of color to go back to where they came from.

“In the 19th century, there were many, many reformers, racial reformers who thought the way to solve the race problem, the Negro problem, was to essentially send back all free blacks [to Africa]. And that started with Thomas Jefferson, his Notes to the State of Virginia which was published in 1787, and went up to Abraham Lincoln,” Kendi said.

He also pointed out that this language is aimed almost exclusively at people of color — because America is assumed to be a place for white people. “So where would they go back to? But people of color, it’s assumed that this is not their country,” Kendi said.

A common refrain among Trump supporters, whenever he sets off a furor with an early-morning tweetstorm, is that he’s just inappropriate — not racist. There’s a difference, they say.  And Mr. Trump asserted in a tweet, “I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!”

“First, I’d say there’s no such thing as not racist. There’s racist and anti-racist,” Kendi said. “Racist ideas suggest that there’s something wrong or right, superior or inferior about a particular group. It suggests there’s something inherently normal about white Americans, that Americans are white and whites are Americans. And his idea suggests that somehow people of color are not American, and that’s deeply racist.”

Kendi also took issue with the argument that because Mr. Trump didn’t specifically call out any race of people, his comments can’t be considered racist.

“Poll taxes, grandfather clauses — these were voting suppression bills widely considered by Americans to be racist. There was no racial language in them. You don’t have to have racial language in an idea or even in a policy for it to be racist. It’s about what its outcome, are you suggesting that there’s something wrong with a particular group? Is it creating inequity? That’s the true measure of whether something is racist.”

One of the congresswomen apparently targeted by the president’s tweets, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, came under fire earlier this year for comments deemed by some as anti-Semitic; she later apologized for the remarks. Kendi, though, said there’s a fundamental difference between Omar’s and Trump’s comments.

“She was very specific in criticizing the policies of a country. In this case the country was Israel. Trump has specifically criticized racial groups of people,” he said. “When he said that Mexicans are rapists. When he said that a trait of blacks is laziness. This is a condemnation of a racial group of people. That is effectively racism. When we criticize a country’s policies, that is not — when you criticize Israeli policies, that’s not anti-Semitic. When you say there’s something wrong with Jews, that is. I haven’t heard her say that.”

And on the question of whether a racist comment can make a racist man, Kendi was blunt: “If you say things that are racist, you’re racist. Just like if you say things that are anti-racist, the next minute you’re being an anti-racist. What we do is effectively who we are in that moment.”

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The Surprisingly Racist History of “Caucasian” | Decoded | MTV News

White Identity Politics

Vox: White identity politics is about more than racism

A political scientist on the rise of white identity politics in America.

When people talk about “identity politics,” it’s often assumed they’re referring to the politics of marginalized groups like African Americans, LGBTQ people, or any group that is organizing on the basis of a shared experience of injustice — and that’s a perfectly reasonable assumption.

Traditionally, identity has only really been a question for non-dominant groups in society. If you’re a member of the dominant group, your identity is taken for granted precisely because it’s not threatened. But the combination of demographic shifts and demagogic politicians has transformed the landscape of American politics. Now, white identity has been fully activated.

This is the argument Duke political scientist Ashley Jardina makes in her book White Identity Politics. Drawing on a decade of data from American National Election Studies surveys, Jardina claims that white Americans — roughly 30 to 40 percent of them — now identify with their whiteness in a politically meaningful way. Importantly, this racial solidarity doesn’t always overlap with racism, but it does mean that racial identity is becoming a more salient force in American politics.

I spoke to Jardina about the rise of white identity politics — why she believes America’s diversification has triggered a host of anxieties about who holds power and who does not, and what she thinks we can do to deal with the problems this anxiety has created.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing

You open the book with a great quote from James Baldwin about how identity is “questioned only when it is menaced.” What’s the significance of this quote?

Ashley Jardina

It was so fitting when I was thinking about what gives rise to an identity like white identity, or really any dominant group identity. The important thing to note about dominant group identities is that we often think of them as invisible — and part of the reason is because dominant groups like whites in this society typically haven’t been forced to think about their identity.

Prior to a couple years ago, whites felt secure in the belief that they held a disproportionate share of economic and political and social resources, so their lives weren’t over-determined by their race. But now white identity has become salient as white Americans feel more and more threatened, and that fear has activated identity in a way we haven’t seen for some time.

Sean Illing

That’s the thing about identity, right? It’s inherently reactionary. Every identity is defined by what it isn’t as much as what it is. So it’s not surprising that group solidarity spikes when there’s a threat, real or imagined.

Ashley Jardina

Absolutely. The reason we naturally think of African Americans when we think of identity in the US, for example, is because we know this group has a long history of oppression and subordination in this country, and so their identity is quite strong — it has to be, really. Because their identities have been forced upon them by dint of circumstances.

Sean Illing

So when did whites start thinking about their whiteness in a politically meaningful way again? And what precipitated this sudden awareness?

Ashley Jardina

My argument is that it’s the growing diversity of the United States. There’s this series of events that are in many ways a product of that increasing diversity. So I began by looking at the massive waves of immigration that happened in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and how that changed the demographics of the United States.

At this point today, it’s projected that whites will cease to be a majority by the middle of the century. This fact, which was brought into sharp relief by the election of Barack Obama, ignited a wave racial awareness among white Americans, and I think we’re still reckoning with the political consequences of this.

Sean Illing

What does the data tell us about how whites are defining their own anxieties or concerns?

Ashley Jardina

Deep down it’s about this fear that America isn’t going to look like them anymore, that they’ll lose their majority and with it their cultural and political power. It’s also tied up in the belief that whites are experiencing discrimination now.

The gains that racial and ethnic majorities are making, either socially or politically or economically, are coming at the expense of their group. In many ways, it’s about feeling that the privileges and status that whites have by way of their race are somehow being threatened or challenged.

Sean Illing

I find it difficult to distinguish between fear of change and fear of the other. Obviously, these things can overlap, and quite often they do, but it’s not necessarily the same thing, right?

Ashley Jardina

I think that’s right. But here we’re talking very specifically about the loss of status and the loss of power, as a result of some other group. So I think it’s a combination of those two things, both change and fear of the other. In this case, it’s hard to disentangle these things because it’s the “other” that’s creating the change.

Sean Illing

I’m trying to be as fair as possible, because I think some people on the left fail to distinguish between racism and a reasonable concern that the country is changing too fast for the culture to keep up, which historically can create a lot of social unrest.

Ashley Jardina

It’s a very good point. Part of what I’ve done is try to be objective and perhaps even sympathetic to some of the whites that I studied.

I thought a lot about the book The Unsteady March, by Philip Klinkner and Rogers Smith, where they describe how if you grow up in a society where your group is privileged, and you experience that privilege in a way that seems basically natural because you’re so steeped in it, your whole life is just structured around it; when any change comes about that threatens that privilege, it feels disquieting.

And I think that’s a pretty sympathetic way of talking about what’s happening right now.

Sean Illing

The problem, of course, is that too much sympathy is itself problematic.

Ashley Jardina

Exactly. We can’t mask the fact that we’re also talking about the protection and preservation of whites in the United States at the expense of racial and ethnic minorities, and I think that’s part of the problem. So in the book, I make this really crisp distinction between white identity and white racial prejudice, and that’s an important distinction.

Sean Illing

Can you lay out that distinction for me?

Ashley Jardina

When we often talk about white racial attitudes, we talk about prejudice as this antipathy for people who aren’t white, and usually that means white antipathy for black Americans or Muslim Americans or Latino Americans or whoever. But what I’m suggesting is there’s this other force that’s independent of that, and it’s about the desire of white people to protect their group, to preserve their group status. This isn’t the same as racial prejudice, but it absolutely helps maintain a system of racism.

Sean Illing

You’re talking about white people who feel a sense of racial solidarity with fellow whites but would reject any assertions of white supremacy. In other words, it’s about identifying more with the in-group than hating the out-group.

Ashley Jardina

You got it. And one way to think about that is there are a lot of white people in the United States who have a strong sense of racial antipathy or racial prejudice who don’t identify with their racial group, and there are a lot of white people who do have this sense of solidarity but who wouldn’t score particularly high on any social science measure of racial prejudice.

For these whites, it’s about protecting their in-group and showing some sense of favoritism, completely independent of racial prejudice. Most of these whites that I’m talking about and thinking about are not members of the KKK, they would absolutely reject any association with white supremacist organizations, and yet in some instances, they do hold a lot of the same beliefs as some of these groups.

Sean Illing

I want to hold on this point for a second, because I think it will confuse people. How is it that someone can have a strong sense of racial antipathy for “the other” and not identify with their own racial group at the same time? That seems nearly impossible.

Ashley Jardina

Many whites in the US may possess a strong animus, resentment, or dislike toward people of color, but at the same time, these same whites do not necessarily feel a sense of solidarity with other whites. The converse is also true. There are many whites who feel strongly connected with other whites, but they do not simultaneously score high on measures of racial prejudice.

The problem, of course, is that wanting to favor and protect one’s racial in-group can often result in behavior that discriminates against racial out-groups, even if that is not the intention. That’s one important reason why we ought to worry about white identity politics. It often results in whites wanting to protect their group and its status at the expense of more equality for racial and ethnic minorities.

We should also be nervous that there isn’t significant overlap between whites who are racially prejudiced and whites who possess a racial identity, because that means that politicians can now appeal to the two groups, independently, mobilizing them both to participate in politics, often toward the same ends.

Sean Illing

And what percentage of white Americans are we talking about here?

Ashley Jardina

About 30 to 40 percent.

Sean Illing

I’m sure many people will read what you just said and think, “Well, someone doesn’t have to self-identify as a racist to be a racist.” And I think it’s a fair point, because in-group favoritism in the way you’re defining does imply at least a little hostility to the out-group, even if it isn’t fully recognized.

Ashley Jardina

Yeah, social psychologists have been studying the phenomenon of in-group favoritism and out-group animosity for a long time. What we found is that regardless of the type of group that you’re talking about, you can feel fondly about your in-group but not necessarily want to disparage the relevant out-group. They’re not necessarily the same thing; they’re not reciprocal. They’re not two sides of the same coin.

Think about the fact that some people feel very strongly attached to their religious identity, but that doesn’t always manifest in a dislike or animosity toward people who belong to other religions. Now, sometimes, those things are related. Sometimes we do see that type of relationship, but that’s not what I found in my data with respect to white identity.

What I’m suggesting is there are now two things going on. You’ve got the prevalence of white racial prejudice in American politics, and you’ve got this rise of white identity politics. In some ways, they’re two forces pushing in the same direction, but they’re capturing two different sets of white Americans.

Sean Illing

One obvious problem is that these social realities create more incentives for politicians to exploit racial fears and anxieties for the sake of political expediency, and I don’t see any way to prevent this. Do you?

Ashley Jardina

Well, this is definitely a choice that politicians are making. In some ways, we have to rely on politicians to be better. And there are examples of this. If you go back and you think about the campaign that John McCain ran, or that Mitt Romney ran when they were running against Obama, they were very careful not to race-bait. They chose very deliberately not to use Obama’s race as a wedge to try to garner more support from their base.

Of course, Trump very obviously went another direction and exploited racial anxieties as an effective political strategy. But not every politician chooses to do that, and we very desperately need more of this. The fear, though, is that Trump was so effective employing this strategy that other politicians are going to be tempted to follow his lead.

So you’re not wrong to be worried, although it’s worth pointing out that politicians have always exploited racial anxieties. This is hardly a new phenomenon.

Sean Illing

One of the tropes I hear constantly on the right is that the rise in white identity politics is a direct consequence of identity politics on the left. But your analysis suggests that it’s primarily about these deeper demographic shifts, not necessarily about what the political left is doing.

Ashley Jardina

I would say that one thing I’ve learned from studying people who score high on our measures of white identity is that they do seem to be borrowing some of the strategies used by groups on the left. So, for example, complaining that their group experiences discrimination, or trying to demand that their group gets a white history month, or wanting things organized politically around their race. These are cases in which whites are learning the lessons from identity politics practiced by other groups.

On the other hand, identities among black Americans have been consistently strong and powerful and an important force in American politics for decades, particularly the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. And yet during that time, we certainly didn’t see white identity seeming to matter very much in American politics. So it does seem to be more about these demographics and the deeper concerns they’re producing.

Sean Illing

It’s not clear to me how these fears can be assuaged or appeased without paying a very high political price or simply exacerbating tensions in the other direction.

Ashley Jardina

If I knew definitively how to assuage these fears, then many political consulting firms would be banging at my door. But it’s hard to figure out exactly how to inoculate Americans from the concerns they have about increasing diversity and demographic change.

The provocation of these concerns is why some scholars have begun to worry about the attention the media has paid to covering projections of demographic change, which some argue are overstated. The more we draw attention to growing diversity and to immigration, the more some whites are going to be fixated on these issues.

There are some clues, however, about the ways in which political elites might steer attention in another, more productive direction. Demographic change is inevitable, but it isn’t, arguably, one of our most pressing political issues.

In fact, much research suggests that we need immigrants to help maintain the country’s economic growth, and to provide a solid tax base to fund entitlement programs. And it’s actually with respect to protecting and preserving parts of our social safety net that we might find more common ground among Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity.

For example, in my work, I find that white identifiers are especially supportive of policies like Social Security and Medicare. Unlike means-tested policies that fall under the umbrella term “welfare” and have been racialized such that now they are associated with blacks and other minorities, Social Security and Medicare are viewed as benefiting all groups, including whites.

Whites with higher levels of racial identity like these policies, which means that politicians might garner a lot of support across racial groups by focusing on efforts to protect and preserve these policies.

Trump clearly knew this when he was campaigning for office. He departed from the traditional Republican Party platform and promised to protect these entitlement programs. Of course, Trump is also very good at drawing white Americans’ attention to the anxiety and fears they have about immigration and demographic changes.

Sean Illing

Here’s the thing: White Americans are right to notice that they’re losing cultural and political power. The country is changing. Groups that previously had little power are now asserting themselves. These are not illusory shifts. I suppose the question is, how do we convince people that this isn’t necessarily a zero-sum game?

Ashley Jardina

Well, I’m not sure that it is a zero-sum game, and growing diversity need not be framed by elites as if it is.

For one thing, the claim that whites are going to lose an enormous degree of power in the United States because of immigration and growing diversity is certainly overstated. If anything, immigration will likely increase the size of the proverbial “pie” of economic resources available to all Americans by helping grow the economy.

There’s also just not a lot of evidence that immigrants are depressing American citizens’ wages or taking their jobs. So when politicians claim immigrants threaten American workers, they’re usually just fearmongering.

It is also worth noting that most Americans claim, at least in the abstract, that they want to live in a more racially egalitarian society. It is just going to take some time for white Americans to be comfortable with the reality of greater equality — a reality in which not everyone represented in the media, sitting in a board room, or holding office is white by the standards of our time.

Sean Illing

We’re transitioning from an unjust and hierarchical system into a more just and less hierarchical system, and that means people are going to lose power or influence. How can we make this transition without careening into truly dangerous territory?

Ashley Jardina

There are things to be hopeful about. For one, I’ve observed that levels of racial identity among white Americans have actually decreased since Trump’s election. I’m working now with colleagues to understand better what has motivated some whites to reject a racial identity they were previously willing to claim.

So far, what we’ve found is that whites who felt disgusted by Trump were more likely to abandon their racial identity in the wake of the 2016 election. These results suggest that Trump is actually driving some whites away from a sense of racial solidarity. He’s making people uncomfortable with adopting this identity, and therefore is hopefully driving some whites away from the impulse to protect their racial group at the expense of greater equality.

It is also worth noting that this discomfort over change as we move toward greater equality is hardly new. Think back to the civil rights movement. At the time, public opinion surveys showed that many Americans thought that the leaders of the movement were pushing much too fast for equality. And there was certainly a backlash among whites, one that continues to ripple through American politics and society. But at the end of the day, we ended up with a much more egalitarian nation.

Hopefully, that’s the direction we are moving in today, and there’s some indication that we are. Despite the more obvious and deeply troubling signs of the backlash to diversity we’re witnessing, like the rise in white nationalist groups and an uptick in hate crimes, most white Americans have not become more racially prejudiced over the past two decades.

If anything, in the wake of Trump, we’ve seen whites, especially those who identify with the Democratic Party, becoming more racially sympathetic. Given these trends, political elites should be less afraid to call out the racist remarks made by their peers and to decry efforts to race-bait in political campaigns. Politicians are going to be tempted to adopt these strategies, but we shouldn’t stop trying to sanction them for doing so.

Sean Illing

Are there examples of other countries or societies managing a transition similar to what you’re describing in this book? And what can we learn from their experiences?

Ashley Jardina

That’s a great question. Unfortunately, it’s beyond my particular area of expertise. But I’ll say this: There are examples of other periods of American history where we’ve witnessed this. In the book, I talk a lot about the early 1900s and 1920s when we had very much this same thing happening. We had a huge influx of immigrants from parts of the world where, at the time, those immigrants were not considered white. And if you look at the conversations that we were having as a nation, or conversations our politicians were having, they were talking about the exact same thing.

They were talking about trying to preserve the nation as a “white nation,” and what ultimately happened is we dramatically restricted levels of immigration moving forward but we still had already experienced these big demographic shifts. So the restrictions came well after the composition of the United States had arguably changed. So the consequence was a lot of assimilation and a sort of redefining of what it meant to be white in the United States in a way that kind of reinforced a racial hierarchy.

On the other hand, all of this led to a political conversation that was less zero-sum in nature, and I think that’s ultimately what we need.

Sean Illing

I’m wondering how all these trends play out. The demographic changes are going to continue, and that means the political cleavages they’ve opened up are going to deepen. Where does that leave us?

Ashley Jardina

Well, there’s some speculation about whether whites are actually going to ultimately become a minority or whether we’ll simply redefine what it means to be white in the United States and potentially subsume Latinx Americans into that definition. So that’s one hypothesis and possibility.

But the other thing is it’s going to be quite some time before whites become a minority. I think that what that means, number one, is that whatever losses that whites are worried about as a result of demographic changes are going to continue to happen probably slowly and over a very extended period of time.

But on the other hand, the bell has already been rung. The demographics have shifted in a way that can’t be undone. That leaves the door open for politicians to try to rally white Americans around these concerns and these anxieties. This will be a constant temptation moving forward for politicians seeking to win office, and it’s something we all should be extremely worried about.

AJ+: What Is the ‘It’s OK to Be White’ Campaign?

White Fear of Losing Way of Life

NATGEO: As America Changes, Some Anxious Whites Feel Left Behind

Demographic shifts rippling across the nation are fueling fears that their culture and standing are under threat.

“Outnumbered is a word that came up often when I talked with white residents of this eastern Pennsylvania town. Outnumbered in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Outnumbered at the bank. Outnumbered at the Kmart, where the cashier merrily chitchats in Spanish with Hazleton’s newer residents.

Hazleton was another former coal mining town slipping into decline until a wave of Latinos arrived. It would not be an overstatement to say a tidal wave. In 2000 Hazleton’s 23,399 residents were 95 percent non-Hispanic white and less than 5 percent Latino. By 2016 Latinos became the majority, composing 52 percent of the population, while the white share plunged to 44 percent.

“We joke about it and say we are in the minority now,” says Bob Sacco, a bartender at A&L Lounge, a tavern on a street now mainly filled with Latino-owned storefronts. “They took over the city. We joke about it all the time, but it’s more than a joke.”

That dizzying shift is an extreme manifestation of the nation’s changing demographics. The U.S. Census Bureau has projected that non-Hispanic whites will make up less than 50 percent of the population by 2044, a change that almost certainly will recast American race relations and the role and status of white Americans, who have long been a comfortable majority.

Hazleton’s experience offers a glimpse into the future as white Americans confront the end of their majority status, which often has meant that their story, their traditions, their tastes, and their cultural aesthetic were seen as being quintessentially American. This is a conversation already exploding across the country as some white Americans, in online forums and protests over the removal of Confederate monuments, react anxiously and angrily to a sense that their way of life is under threat. Those are the stories that grab headlines and trigger social media showdowns. But the shift in status—or what some are calling “the altitude adjustment”—is also playing out in much more subtle ways in classrooms, break rooms, factory floors, and shopping malls, where the future has arrived ahead of schedule. Since 2000, the minority population has grown to outnumber the population of whites who aren’t Hispanic in such counties as Suffolk in Massachusetts, Montgomery in Maryland, Mecklenburg in North Carolina, as well as counties in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, and Texas.

For decades, examining race in America meant focusing on the advancement and struggles of people of color. Under this framework, being white was simply the default. Every other race or ethnic group was “other-ized,” and matters of race were the problem and province of people of color. In a period bookended by the presidential elections of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the question of what it means to be white in America has increasingly taken center stage.

On several fronts, there is growing evidence that race is no longer a spectator sport for white Americans: The growth of whiteness studies courses on college campuses. Battles over immigration and affirmative action. A rising death rate for middle-aged white Americans with no more than a high-school diploma from drugs, alcohol, and suicide in what economists are calling “deaths of despair.” The increasingly racially polarized electorate. The popularity of a television show called Dear White People that satirizes “post-racial” America. The debate over the history and symbols of the Confederacy. The aggression and appeal of white nationalism, with its newest menacing chant: “You will not replace us.”

The protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August likely will be remembered as a moment when hate groups, wearing polo shirts and khakis, stepped out of the shadows. Most Americans soundly denounce the message and the methods of the neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, and white nationalists who gathered at the “Unite the Right” rally to decry the removal of a monument honoring a Confederate general. But matters of race are complicated, and academics and researchers who closely chart the fractious history of race relations in this country note that the Charlottesville demonstrations—though widely pilloried—also punctuate an issue that animates everything from politics to job prospects and even the world of professional sports: the fear of displacement in an era of rapid change…

…“We know in sociology when community identity is challenged or questioned in some way, the community asserts and defends that identity,” Longazel says. “With Hazleton’s changing demographics and persistent economic decline, the community began to see itself as white. The city reasserted its identity as white.” Longazel thinks that same psychology might be emerging on a national level.

His research found repeated themes. White Hazletonians consistently recalled a city that was “close-knit, quiet, obedient, honest, harmless, and hardworking” and described newcomers as “loud, disobedient, manipulative, lawless, and lazy.” The anecdotes were often similar. Did that many people really witness a Latino family at the grocery store using food stamps to buy seafood and steak, or did the stories spiral forward on their own weight, embraced and repeated as personal observation? And why did so few people in his research reference the new residents who were paying taxes, going to church twice a week, buying sedans on Airport Road, and opening businesses that percolate all up and down North Wyoming Street?

THE CHANGING COMPLEXION OF YOUTH

In less than two years, white children who are not Hispanic will no longer be the majority among those under 18 years old in the United States, the Census Bureau estimates. By then, children who are now considered minorities— Latino, black, Asian, and others—will out-number them, although non-Hispanic white children will remain the largest racial or ethnic group. Within a few decades, the entire non- Hispanic white population in the country will also no longer be the majority.

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“The whole notion of whiteness as we know it depends on not being a minority,” says Brian Glover, a professor who specializes in 18th-century British literature at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. “In the 20th century, the white man was the best deal that anybody ever had in the history of the planet. I mean, in America you could feel like you were at the center of everything. You didn’t have to justify yourself.”…

“It means that a lot of people are just going to lose materially and are already losing materially,” he told me in a recent conversation. “I can somehow feel more virtuous because it was necessarily built on equality? I just don’t know if that really keeps people warm at night, knowing that there’s equality out there. I think they would rather have privilege.” He’s just being honest about the practical effect for people like him...

So what happens when America crosses that milestone and becomes a majority-minority country? There won’t be any fireworks or bells, and in truth this country’s infrastructure around wealth, politics, education, and opportunity is so entrenched that white people, and white men in particular, will still hold the reins of power on Wall Street and Main Street for quite some time. The change is likely to be more subtle. You will see it at the grocery store, in the produce section and condiment aisle. You will see it in classrooms, where the under-18 population will reach a majority-minority state in just two years. You will notice it in pop culture and in advertisements, where businesses have already figured out that the color most important to their bottom line is green.

While the angst over the coming demographic shift might make for more uncomfortable race relations, it might finally usher in a reckoning in which America faces hard truths: The Founding Fathers built white dominance into the fabric and laws of the nation, and a country that proclaims to love freedom and liberty is still struggling with its roots in the original sin of slavery…

…Every Tuesday, Landrieu (New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu) has lunch at a local restaurant with his parents, who are both in their 80s. During a recent meal he approached an older couple he knew to say a quick hello. The wife was wearing a scowl as she leaned in close. “You ruined my life,” she said, twice, then added, “You destroyed my life.” “What did I do?” Landrieu asked, revealing a streak of political confidence that dances along the edge of disrespect. “You took the monuments down,” she said. Landrieu replied, “Are you dying? Did it give you cancer?”

He asserts he did more than just take down the monuments. He also took away something intangible and yet just as weighty as all that bronze and marble: pride. “There is a white Christian ethnic identity that people have tied onto and somehow connected to the Confederacy,” Landrieu says. “They feel like somebody has taken something away from them.””

Vox: White fear of demographic change is a powerful psychological force

“In August 2008, the Census Bureau released a report that predicted a seismic shift in American demographics: By 2050, minorities would make up more than 50 percent of the population and become the majority.

When Yale psychologist Jennifer Richeson heard about the report on NPR, she remembers thinking, “This is probably freaking somebody out.”

By “somebody,” she means white people.

Richeson’s studies on interracial interactions had taught her that when people are in the majority, the sense of their race is dormant. But the prospect of being in the minority can suddenly make white identity — and all the historical privilege that comes with it — salient. And, she guessed, the prospect of losing majority status was likely to make people (perhaps unconsciously) uneasy.

In other words, she wondered if white people would read the news of a coming “minority majority” shift as a threat, a “threat” powerful enough to change their thoughts and behavior.

In the years since, Richeson has tried to answer this question with a trove of experimental research. What she’s found is both unsettling and crucial to understanding politics in the era of President Donald Trump.

Her research — and the research of many other social scientists studying the rise of Trump, Brexit, and other examples of nationalistic backlash around the world — points to how the politics of inclusion will be challenged in the days ahead.

Perhaps one day social scientists will figure out how to get people of different backgrounds to live among one another and not be afraid. But for now, the perceived “threat” of demographic change is making voters fearful and, in turn, giving power to politicians who implicitly or explicitly stoke that fear. It’s a troubling problem crying out for an answer.

The experiments

After the census report came out, Richeson and Maureen Craig, a graduate student working under her (now a psychology professor at NYU), set up a simple experiment.

First, they had a group of white participants read a bit of text summarizing the census report heralding the minority-majority shift.

That was the experimental condition. Then they had a second group of white participants read about demographics as they currently exist.

The first round of results was troubling: White participants who read about demographic change showed greater preference for their own racial groups — they were more likely to respond to statements like “I would rather work alongside people of my same ethnic origin” in the affirmative. The paper, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, also found that the experiment made white participants feel less warm toward members of other races.

Craig and Richeson

This effect has been replicated in other labs. For instance, a study led by psychologist H. Robert Outten reported nearly identical findings in both Americans and Canadians. Outten’s paper also found that the exposure increased white sympathy for other whites, and increased feeling of fear and anger toward minorities.

The results suggest that “a sense of a zero-sum competition between groups is activated,” Craig tells me. When people hear about the rise of one group, they automatically fear it will mean a decline in their own.

To be clear: It’s wrong to conclude from these studies that deep down, all white people harbor extreme animus. The psychologists do not see it that way. On average, Craig says, people in her studies report tolerant attitudes toward minorities. “We’re saying that there’s a [small] relative difference, and that difference is leading toward more negative attitudes,” she says. The effects they find are small in effect size, but consistent.

“The point is that people who think of themselves as not prejudiced (and liberal) demonstrate these threat effects,” Richeson says.

You can think of the results like this: Fear of outsiders is a chord that can be struck in some of us. Some politicians exploit this, and Trump most certainly did when he said that undocumented Mexican immigrants, refugees, and people from Muslim countries ought to be feared and barred from entering our country.

Fear of demographic change is changing political decision-making

It’s not just racial attitudes that shift when whites are exposed to the demographic data. Political attitudes shift too. And this can, in part, explain why Trump found an audience with his nationalistic rhetoric.

In another paper, published in Psychological Science, Richeson and Craig found that exposure to the census report nudged participants to be more conservative on a variety of policies. What’s interesting here is that the policies weren’t necessarily race-related. Participants became more conservative on topics like affirmative action and immigration, as well as on defense spending and health care reform.

The threat of demographic change — and the loss of status that comes with it — provokes a broad sense of wanting to hunker down. A similar thing happens when psychologists remind people of their mortality. Psychologists find the threat of death makes people more conservative, and more wary of others too.

And it’s not that conservatives are becoming more conservative. White people of all political backgrounds in America become more conservative in these experiments.

But why would a self-avowed liberal change her political position just because of a line from a census report? Richeson and Craig are pretty sure the answer is that these white people feel threatened.

Richeson and Craig ran a version of the experiment where participants were told that even though the minority-majority switch was coming, the social order would continue to be the same. White Americans would still come out on top in American society.

In that condition, the effect disappeared. “And that’s how you know it’s status threat” fueling the effect, Richeson says.

She doesn’t know how that threat will increase or diminish in the population in the coming years. The feeling of threat could even decrease. “People may have seen electing [Trump] as an intervention that will stave off the status and cultural shifts they are concerned about,” she says.

But then, that’s concerning too: We can’t neutralize the threat of demographic change at the cost of minorities.

A sense of demographic threat influences voting behavior, too

What’s compelling about this line of research is that it suggests not only do people change their attitudes, but they also change their behavior in response to demographic threat.

Maria Abascal, a sociologist at Brown University, found in an experiment that white participants who are exposed to information about Hispanic population growth will donate less money to black people. Think about this for a second: When hearing about the rise of one minority group, participants in the study were stingier toward an unrelated minority group. That means the growth in the Hispanic population is causing an anxiety that generalizes into a broad sense that white people’s status needs to be reinforced. (The information about Hispanic population growth did not change the behavior of the black participants in the study.)

And right before the election, a paper led by Brenda Major at UC Santa Barbara found that exposure to demographic change increased support — to a small degree — for Trump (and not the other Republican presidential candidates) among whites who highly identified with their racial groups.

“Among very highly identified Whites … the racial shift reminder shifted them one point more likely to vote for Trump on a 7 point scale — from about a 2.5 to about a 3.5,” Major explains in an email. “Of course, Democrats were still less positive toward and intended to vote for Trump less than Republicans did, but the group threat pushed them both in that direction. Why Trump and not the other Republican candidates? I think because Trump’s rhetoric was and is most hostile toward people who aren’t White.”

Outside of psychology labs, there’s compelling evidence that Trump’s win was linked, in part, to white anxiety about a changing world. Racial attitudes were a strong predictor of Trump support in the lead-up to the election. “Republicans who scored highest on racial resentment were about 30 percentage points more likely to support Trump than their more moderate counterparts in the bottom quartile of the party in racial conservatism,” Michael Tester, a UC Irvine political scientist, explained to the Washington Post.

Why increasing diversity could make America a more hostile place

All these results are troubling. And they’re troubling because the forces dividing Americans along racial lines may only grow stronger in the Trump era.

Vox’s Alvin Chang has reported on another disturbing trend: that white America is slowly segregating itself from diverse communities. It’s a story, he writes, about:

… how many white people have reacted to increasing exposure to nonwhite populations, who are following in their footsteps and pursuing the traditional American dream. The reaction is not always articulated or even intentional; in fact, most people say they want to live in a diverse and integrated community; they, too, have the dream that no one will be judged by the color of their skin.

But data shows that as minorities move into suburbs, white families are making small and personal decisions that add velocity to the momentum of discrimination. They are increasingly choosing to self-segregate into racially isolated communities.

So as the country diversifies, white Americans are increasingly choosing to live among each other. But demographic change will keep charging ahead. White Americans will learn about the changes, but they won’t have the opportunities to make the intensive face-to-face contact necessarily to assuage their fears.

There’s one study that shows it’s possible to meaningful reduce prejudice in the real world. And for that opinion change to happen, it requires going door to door and having voters talk about their real lived experience, and their own memories of feeling marginalized. It isn’t easy. But with contact, it’s possible.

It’s not just Richeson and Craig who worry that increasing diversity might make America a more hostile, less compassionate place.

“I think that diversity, immigration, and multiculturalism are right at the heart of the sociological problem in Western democracies, along with the new and pernicious role of social media,” psychologist Jonathan Haidt recently told Vox’s Sean Illing. “So long as we are all immersed in a constant stream of unbelievable outrages perpetrated by the other side, I don’t see how we can ever trust each other and work together again.”

Haidt continued:

As multiculturalism is emphasized more and more, there emerges a reaction against it on the right, which is attractive to the authoritarian mind and also appeals to other conservatives. And this, I think, is what has happened, this is what Trump is about — not entirely, of course, but certainly this is a big factor.

Elsewhere, researchers find that mere exposure to marginalized groups of people backfires when it comes to progressive policymaking. A recent study in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) found that when experiment participants walked past an actor dressed up like a destitute homeless person, they were less willing to support redistribution of income through a “millionaire’s tax” on a questionnaire. “I do think it could be the case that, for an affluent individual, seeing someone who is poor reminds you of your wealth and perhaps makes you more protective of it,” Melissa Sands, the author of that study, tells me in the email.

The big question the researchers cannot yet answer is this: How does the country keep growing more diverse without these fears coming to an even more dangerous boil?

“My biggest concern about all of this is if we’re going to really build a multiethnic, interfaith democracy, we can’t have these levels of racial polarization,” Richeson says. “We really need to understand the many identity threats that are happening here. Both for White Americans and for the many racial minorities that are feeling very threatened by a Trump presidency, what this means for all kinds of racial progress. … How do we come together given this demographic split? it’s terrifying for us.”

Richeson says she doesn’t have the answers. No one does. But she hopes to look for them in some research projects over the next several years. “If we can understand the mechanism giving rise to what we are seeing in the world, then we can address it,” she says.

In addition to lab studies, Richeson says her colleagues in the field are planning trips out into America, to learn from white people and understand how they feel about demographic change. The goal is to find a way to frame the change in a way that’s nonthreatening, or communicate messages that build multiracial coalitions. (Richeson wonders if poor white voters will better identify with poor black voters when reminded of their shared economic hardships, for instance.)

One last thing to note: The US Census projections are based on arbitrary ideas of race. None of this matters if the census changes its definition of who it considers to be white. For instance, the 2008 report considered biracial people to be part of the coming “minority majority.” If the census redefines what it means to be “white,” then the possibility of a minority majority may go away.

The “threat” is dependent on who you consider part of your team. If the labels change, so may the feelings of threat. “This term ‘majority minority’ has absolutely no meaning,” Richeson says.

Unless we let it.

“It’s horrible that things are devolving as much as they are in terms of intergroup harmony,” Richeson says. “But what that says to me is our work is all the more important.””

MTV Decoded: 4 Reasons “White Pride” Makes People Uneasy

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Mic: Yes, ‘Black’ is capitalized when we’re talking about race

This past August, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones issued her long-awaited 1619 project through the New York Times. In the book, Hannah-Jones outlines America’s capitalistic beginnings in detail, calling out the heinous acts of Transatlantic Slave trade and chattel slavery throughout America’s nascent years.

To sharpen the impact of her work, Hannah-Jones decided to eschew the word “slave” in her writing opting for the more accurate “enslaved people.” Changing the word “slave” from a noun to an adjective seems like a subtle nod to political correctness, but to consider it just that is both reductive and dismissive. For Hannah-Jones and other Black writers such as myself, this recalibration of letters is an act of freedom, authenticity, and emotional preservation.

See, “small” changes to language — even to the simple concept of capitalization — can provoke new discussions about oppression and then extract humanity from these discussions. This humanity, when reclaimed by Black people, is something like a strand of freedom, wispy but substantial in tethering us to this reality that “slaves” were actually people experiencing enslavement rather than objects or property. For Black folks, taking back the power of our narrative has rested heavily on language. Whether we are reclaiming the N-word or enforcing the capitalization of the ‘B’ in Black, it should be our right to own these terms despite standard guidelines used in the media and anywhere else we’re represented or spoken about to the masses.

Hannah-Jones’s work got me thinking about the capitalizing of the ‘b’ in the word “Black” as a racial identifier. It’s not always done, and that capitalization is important because the word is not just describing the color of skin, or of a car or a desk for that matter. It describes a race — one whose existence has historically been plagued by erasure. Formatting the name of a race accurately, in books, on Twitter, in the media, is a glaring demand for our humanity.

Since the very first American census in 1790, Black people’s identity has been left in the hands of white people in power. After that, our identity on the US census changed from “Slaves” (1790) to “black” (1850) to “negro” (1900) to “Negro” (1930) to “Negro or Black” (1970) to “Black or Negro” (1980). The most current iteration is “black, African American or Negro” (1990). Other descriptors have also been used to describe those with Black blood in their body, like “mulatto” (mixed) “quadroon” (1/4th Black), and “octoroon” (1/8th Black). The concept of Blackness has been highly debated and grappled with for centuries as the diaspora spread Africans throughout the Americas and beyond. This Blackness connects all of us, despite our cultural differences based on how we were colonized — so identifying our identity as grand and potent is important.

Not being able to resist this particular anti-Blackness — the denial of cultural identifiers in Black storytelling — makes me wonder: What’s the point of telling our stories? Where’s the joy in reading them?

As a writer, I’ve struggled with editors and publications who are unwilling to push back on “the style guide” they abide by that still uses a lower case ‘b.’ I personally identify as Black and have done so for some time. So when writing about myself, my identity, and those of other Black folx, I own the right to use the accurate descriptor. When an editor isn’t willing to create that space for me, it feels suffocating not just to my creativity, but to my being. The media is a tentacle of the many systems of anti-Blackness people of color have to navigate. Not being able to resist this particular anti-Blackness — the denial of cultural identifiers in Black storytelling — makes me wonder: What’s the point of telling our stories? Where’s the joy in reading them?

Culture writer Kelle Terrell’s work has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and Essence, among other magazines. She’s often found herself facing scrutiny, amidst the editing process, over her preference to capitalize the ‘b’ in Black in her writing. “Early on in my career, I would push back but now, frankly, I don’t push back,” she tells Mic, clearly worn down by a system based on rank. It’s always executives, then editors, and then freelance writers last. Even as one of the more sought-after freelancers in the industry, Terrell says, “it’s harder to fix a system when you are on the outside.” She points out that with media still being a white-male-dominated space, even when people of color are on staff and technically on the inside, we still may not have the power to enforce change.

In certain instances, Terrell says that we sometimes resort to relying on white and other non-Black allies who hold positions of power to press their newsrooms to change their editorial standards when it comes to capitalizing the ‘b’ in Black, for one. It’s a cause worth uniting for, she adds, because Black people have the right to own how we are referred to, especially in a country where our name and identity has, for far too long, been dictated to us.

Terrell is optimistic, though, as she has seen a slight shift lately, perhaps because the discourse is is finally in the spotlight. In one of her latest pieces for a major publication, she lower-cased all the ‘b’s’ in Black — anticipating that her editor would insist on that anyway — and was surprised when she received her draft back with edits, and all the B’s were capitalized.

This shift is also being seen in academia, another space where racial erasure can and has historically thrived. The Brookings Institute — a non-profit research and education foundation that makes policy recommendations on public issues — has addressed the issue in what they’re calling “an act in recognition of racial respect for those who have been generations in the ‘lower case.’”

‘Black’ is already a word with a negative connotation — note terms such as “black sheep” or “black market,” for example — so the term as an identifier can inherently indicate something bad, says Prudence Layne, associate professor of English at Elon College in NC. Layne’s focus on Black studies delves into how our community has taken ownership of our identity, rather than having it dictated to us. She points out that without taking back the term and its true meaning in the context of identity, “you’re gonna be like damn, I’m not worth anything.”

Layne stresses the importance of Black writers — and people in general — to “turn the tables on the guidelines and standards.” Writing has always been filtered through a white gaze, so capitalizing the ‘b’ in Black is also about how we define the story now, and own our history through our own lens. Layne references Zora Neale Hurston’s posthumously released book “Barracoon,” which wasn’t received well in the 1920s because her intentional focus on Black storytelling outside the white gaze.

“In 1927, Zora was saying we are enough. All the editors passed on it but in 2018 it still got printed, and she claimed our identity. Our responsibility as academics, as writers, and Black journalists for us to dictate the standards of how we get named, how we get counted in the censu,” Payne says.

For me, the lowercase ‘b’ in Black indicates smallness, and our contribution to American culture is anything but small. “Don’t twist yourself to fit other standards,” Layne advises. “That’s not to say there isn’t a price to pay. But you have to ask yourself, early on in your career — what’s most important?”

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“When we posted a couple days ago about @Instagram deleting and censoring our content, someone commented about the double standard with how often *actual* hate speech and violence is rampant and allowed on Instagram. They tagged the existence of the account named in the above image as an example. Many people responded that they were reporting the account for its use of the n-word & promotion of violence against Black people, and we reported it too. We just received a response from Instagram that this is not a priority & they are not able to do anything about it. This is surprising because they *did* have time to delete 3 of our posts this week, including the work we cited by a Jewish scholar. Instagram’s Community Guidelines state that they have “a global team that reviews these reports, & works to remove any content that violates our guidelines. These teams are based worldwide to give coverage to reports 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” There is an algorithm, but there are also very real people moderating and making decisions about content. Regardless of Instagram’s stated intentions here around being a “safe and welcoming community for everyone”, this is a clear and current example of hate speech being protected and anti-racist work being censored.

Instagram states that it protects all groups “equally”, but this is not happening in practice. Also, equality frameworks are never effective when it comes to race because of the power imbalance. Racial groups don’t have equal power, experiences, and privileges in society so the response can’t be the same. There is a need for an approach (and algorithm) that is rooted in and informed by equity, and that protects accounts doing anti-racist work.” theconsciouskidVerified”
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Additional Readings

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White Internalizations

“Internalize: Make (attitudes or behaviour) part of one’s nature by learning or unconscious assimilation.”  Oxford Dictionary

Internalized Racist Superiority is complex multi-generational socialization process that teaches White people to believe, accept, and/or live out superior societal definitions of self and to fit into and live out superior societal roles. These behaviors define and normalize the race construct and its outcome: white supremacy.” Crossroads Antiracism

Dismantling Racism: Internalizations

  • Racism not only impacts us personally, culturally, and institutionally.
  • Racism also operates on us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
  • When racism targets us, we internalize that targeting; when racism benefits us, we internalize that privileging.
  • This page investigates how internalized racism operates.

4  foundations  of  racism

CONSTRUCTED RACIST OPPRESSION
​(affecting People of Color)
  • historically constructed and systemic (not just personal or individual)
  • penetrates every aspect of our personal, institutional, and cultural life
  • includes prejudice against people of color in attitudes, feelings, and behaviors
  • includes exclusion, discrimination against, suspicion, fear or hatred of people of color
  • sees a person of color only as a member of a group, not as an individual
  • includes low expectations by white people for children and adults of color
  • people of color have fewer options, choices


INTERNALIZED INFERIORITY or RACIST OPPRESSION (affecting People of Color)

  • carry internalized negative messages about ourselves and other people of color
  • believe there is something wrong with being a person of color
  • have lowered self-esteem, sense of inferiority, wrongness
  • have lowered expectations, limited sense of potential for self
  • have very limited choices: either ‘act in’ (white) or ‘act out’ (disrupt)
  • have a sense of limited possibility (limited by oppression and prejudice)
  • cycles through generations
WHITE PRIVILEGE
​(affecting white people)
  • “an invisible knapsack of special provisions and blank checks” (Peggy McIntosh)
  • the default; “to be white in America is not to have to think about it” (Robert Terry)
  • expect to be seen as an individual; what we do never reflects on the white race
  • we can choose to avoid the impact of racism without penalty
  • we live in a world where our worth and personhood as white people are continually validated
  • although hurt by racism, we can live just fine without ever having to deal with it


INTERNALIZED WHITE SUPERIORITY
(affecting white people)

  • my world view is the universal world view; our standards and norms are universal
  • my achievements have to do with me, not with my membership in the white group
  • I have a right to be comfortable and if I am not, then whoever is making me uncomfortable is to blame
  • I can feel that I personally earned, through work and merit, any/all of my success
  • equating acts of unfairness experienced by white people with systemic racism experienced by People of Color
  • I have many choices, as I should; everyone else has those same choices
  • I am not responsible for what happened before, nor do I have to know anything about it; I have a right to be ignorant
  • I assume race equity benefits only People of Color​

For a more in-depth look at white privilege and internalized white superiority, visit the SURJ Political Education website page on
White Benefits.

positive  messages

In a racist system, the dominant culture regularly sends white people positive messages about who we are both individually and as a community. The Self System of white people and communities is inevitably shaped by the images, values, norms, standards beliefs, attitudes and feelings that presume dominant group members and their culture are the standard by which all people are to be measured.

The arrows represent the positive messages that white people hear about ourselves and our communities; there is no insulation or escape from the messages. The messages affect our individual and collective psyche despite the negative messages we may receive at home and/or in our communities.​Some of the messages about who we include (but are not limited to): Better. Moral. Individual. Qualified. Smart. Pretty. The norm. The standard. Leader. Safe. Deserving. Entitled. Objective. Rational. Justified. Innocent.

impact  of  positive  messages

The positive messages and privileges received on a daily basis include, for example, assumed credibility, freedom of movement, unquestioned access, etc. These are then internalized, impacting the Self System and leading to an inflated sense of self.

These internalizations on both individuals and the community level lead to impacts like: assumptions about our ability to lead and/or “fix” POC; resistance to change, conflict avoidance, paternalism and caretaking, ignorance and misinformation (often about history and/or our role in racism), scapegoating, a sense of entitlement, blaming, labeling, self-righteousness, anger, continued oppression, defensiveness, idolizing the individual, assumption of normalcy, right to comfort.

Another consequence of internalized white superiority is known as white fragility, which Robin DiAngelo notes is a result of our socialization into a whiteness that “renders us racially illiterate.” For more on white fragility, read here.

One of the manifestations of internalizations is understood as implicit bias. To find out more about implicit bias, visit the Kirwan Institute website and/or take the Implicit Bias test developed at Harvard.

Also see A Hard Look At How We See Race, which reviews Jennifer Eberhardt’s research on subconscious connections we make between Black faces and crime.

VICE: How Internalized Racism Amplifies White Supremacy

“Internalized racism is insidious because it can exist, operate, and negatively affect us without us even knowing it,” Professor E.J.R. David at the University of Alaska Anchorage tells Broadly.

“Some manifestations of internalized racism include denigrating fellow POCs [people of color] and justifying the oppression of POCs. This includes justifying white supremacist systems as necessary and fair, and putting the onus on POCs for their own oppression, reinforcing the racist notion that if POCs just work hard enough, or assimilate enough, or be respectful or civil enough, or be friendly enough, or be strong enough, then things will get better for them.”…

“One of the many damages of internalized racism is that it puts the responsibility of change on the oppressed, instead of on the oppressors and their oppressive systems,” David says. “This way, internalized racism helps maintain the status quo; it keeps the white supremacist systems in place and those who benefit from them in power.”

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White Savior Complex

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  • When white people rescue people of color from oppression caused by white privileged racist systems:
    • The help in some contexts is perceived to be self-serving
    • Supports oppressive systems of people they’re trying to save
      • Systemic Racism – Food assistance vs food sovereignty
      • Implicit racism – Implies colonial narratives that people of color need saving and white people are the only competent people to save them
      • Downplays the local leaders of color
    • Often done without efforts to dismantle any racist systems
  • Re-enforces the idea
    • White person with good intentions can never be wrong or held accountable
  • Examples of white savior
    • White people dominating leadership in civil rights efforts
    • White non profits using statistics of poor communities of color to get funding for projects these communities never wanted
    • Movies where the main character is a white/ the only one that can save a community of color (Dangerous Minds, etc)
    • Good intention campaigns that devalue or appropriate people’s suffering and experiences (package it as “clickbait”)
    • Not being “intentional” while volunteering

“What this is about is agency…— the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them (Teju Cole). The idea that, before we do anything else, the best and most important work that we can do is to listen to marginalized people, give them a platform from which they can reach a wider audience, and use our platforms to help amplify their voices. This is the real work that we should be doing. Anything else — any other way of “freeing” women of color — is at best condescending and colonialist and at worst downright harmful and dangerous.” Anne Theriault – HuffPost

  • White Savior Organizing Complaints to Watch Out For
    • “Why won’t they just come to the table. They never show up. They don’t want to be helped!”
    • “We just want to help you/your people/those people/the at-risk/minorities…”
    • “They just don’t want/won’t to do the work…”
    • “They just don’t understand. We have to teach them all about how to…x,y,z”
  • Tokenism in Community Organizing
    • Selecting a person of color on panel, board, collective to represent/speak for the entire black community
    • Making the person of color the “go to” person for questions about the black/brown community
    • Thinking that one person of color’s opinion is enough to understand the entire community of color
      • and no further outreach or representation is needed

“You see, a lot of the folks I know don’t want a seat at someone else’s table. The very table that is built on assumptions that the marginalized must be taught, can’t organize themselves, and need only buy into pre-made models. Na, no thanks. We want our own table *and not the kiddie table, thanks…we’d like our own autonomy. Our own sovereignty (which Merriam-Webster defines as freedom of external control). We don’t just want to be heard on the fringes of your agendas. We don’t just want to be heard when something we say complements your agenda. We have had our own ideas on how things should be in our communities since the beginning of time” Toi Scott – Decolonizing Yoga

A Few Types of White Saviors

Personal

“What we need to do most of all is stop making it all about us. When we cry out that we’re not like those other bad white feminists, we are making it about us. When we ask women of color to take the time to sit down and educate us on the specific issues that they face and how we can be better allies, rather than doing the research ourselves by reading blogs and articles and books by women of color, we are making it about us. When we ask why women of color need to be so divisive and whine that we’re all in this together, we are making it about us. When we decide to swoop in and play the hero without asking what type of help is, in fact, needed, we are still making it about us.” Anne TheriaultHuffPost

Interpersonal

“…the White savior: a person of privilege picks a cause they know little to nothing about and insists on solutions that inevitably cause more harm than good. As Flaherty (Jordan Flaherty, No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality) explains, the savior mentality cannot exist without turning people into objects who need rescuing……activist men who come to command without listening to those they’re ostensibly helping—and dismiss marginalized people who critique their methods—produce a kind of devastation that makes the project of systemic oppression that much easier.” Aura Bogado – Yes Magazine

Neo-Colonial

“If Americans want to care about Africa, maybe they should consider evaluating American foreign policy, which they already play a direct role in through elections, before they impose themselves on Africa itself…Under that same banner, the livelihood of corn farmers in Mexico has been destroyed by NAFTA. Haitian rice farmers have suffered appalling losses due to Haiti being flooded with subsidized American rice. A nightmare has been playing out in Honduras in the past three years: an American-backed coup and American militarization of that country have contributed to a conflict in which hundreds of activists and journalists have already been murdered…This is a litany that will be familiar to some. To others, it will be news. But, familiar or not, it has a bearing on our notions of innocence and our right to “help.” Let us begin our activism right here: with the money-driven villainy at the heart of American foreign policy. “Teju Cole – The Atlantic

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Color Blind/Post Racial Myth

Why Color Blindness Will NOT End Racism | Decoded | MTV News

Common Color Blindness/Post Racial Lines From White People

I don’t see race/color. I just see people.

We are all people.

All lives matter.

You (non white person) focus too much on race.

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Image result for hari I don't see race is essential saying I don't see the uniqueness of your experiences

 

“The Common idea of claiming “color blindness” is akin to the notion of being “not racist”—as with the “not racist,” the colorblind individual, by ostensibly failing to see race, fails to see racism and falls into racist passivity. The language of color blindness-like the language of “not racist”—is a mask to hide racism. “Our Constitution is color-blind,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Harlan proclaimed in his dissent to Plessy v. Ferguson, the case that legalized Jim Crow segregation in 1896. “The White race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country,” Justice Harlan went on. “I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage.” A color-blind Constitution for a White-supremacist America.” Ibram Kendi,, How to be an Antiracist

Everyday Feminist “7 Reasons Why ‘Colorblindness’ Contributes to Racism Instead of Solves It

“The colorblind approach to race is not an accidental phenomenon; rather, it is the result of an education – a training – that many of us have received, especially White Americans…

…Since it’s the responsibility of White folks to educate ourselves and each other (and not expect people of color to be our trainers), I encourage you take to heart the seven reasons I’ve already been taught:

1. Colorblindness Invalidates People’s Identities

Because of the prevalence and history of racism, just the word “race” can conjure negative connotations.

However, racial oppression (not to mention the flipside, racial advantage and privilege) is just one dimension of race.

Race is also intimately tied to people’s identities and signifies culture, tradition, language, and heritagegenuine sources of pride (and not in the White Pride kind of way).

Like many other factors – gender, religion, socio-economic status – race is a basic ingredient that makes up our being, whether or not you consciously acknowledge its role in your life.

Imagine being forced to suppress one such ingredient that you openly acknowledge and value. Imagine, for example, being forced to let go of your religion. For people whose faith is a fundamental part of their lives, such a thought is unfathomable.

Yet doing so for race makes no more sense.

Asked what he appreciates about his race, one student – who describes himself as Japanese, Black, and English – responded, “My race is everything to me.

For this student, not to mention many others for whom race is a valued part of identity, what would colorblindness leave him with?

Denying people their identities is not racial progress, but rather harkens back to this country’s sordid racist history. Slavery depended on severing the cultural ties of stolen people. The Indian Boarding School movement had similarly devastating effects on Indigenous groups.

True progress will come when White Americans no longer feel threatened by the racial identities of groups of color.

2. Colorblindness Invalidates Racist Experiences

Colorblind ideology takes race off the table. But for many people of color – as well as for White people who work to dismantle systems of privilege – race is very much on the table. Racism forces it to the tabletop.

Colorblindness just pretends the table is empty.

I’ve worked with a Mexican American student who overheard a White American student say, “I hate Mexicans.” I’ve worked with an African American student who endured being called the N-word by a classmate and another Black student mistaken for a drug dealer.

Students of color at the predominately White school in which I work have described themselves as “bad seeds” and “outcasts.”

Who benefits when those stories are suppressed?

Most certainly not these students of color, who must swallow their stories and bury their experiences. Beverly Daniel Tatum, author and president of Spelman College, explains that the cost of such silence on students of color is isolation, “self-blame,” and “self-doubt of internalized oppression.”

Instead, we need an environment where such stories are heard, valued, and then thoroughly addressed.

Unfortunately, colorblindness derails the process of addressing racism before it has even started.

3. Colorblindness Narrows White Americans’ Understanding of the World and Leads to Disconnection

White Americans are not the only ones who adopt a colorblind approach to race but, in my experience, they are far more likely to than any other racial group. Ultimately, however, colorblindness hurts them as well.

I explore this topic in much more depth in a previous article. In it, I argue that White Americans who avoid race, a behavior that colorblindness encourages, have a skewed view of the world.

After all, understanding any situation requires multiple points of view. A news story must consider various sides of any conflict to keep itself out of the editorial section.

A court trial could never be considered fair if only the prosecution presented its case. A novel could never be fully understood if we only read about some of the characters.

Novelist, and perhaps coolest-person-ever, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls for multiple perspectives so that we avoid what she calls, “the danger of the single story.”

Colorblind ideology limits the stories that get told, keeping White America comfortable, but also keeping racism thriving.

It also causes disconnect. If you are espousing colorblindness, your failure to deeply understand race means you have likely been tripping down a long unnecessary road paved with stereotypes and microaggressions.

And while you may have been banking on the bliss that comes with ignorance, thepeople who know full well that race really fucking matters — people of all colors — do not trust you.

The result: Colorblindness cuts you off from so much beauty in this world.

4. Colorblindness Equates Color with Something Negative

The comment “I don’t see color; I just see people” carries with it one huge implication: It implies that color is a problem, arguably synonymous with “I can see who you are despite your race.”

As evidence, note that the phrase is virtually never applied to White people.

In over 40 years of life and nearly 15 years as an anti-racist educator, I have yet to hear a White person say in reference to another White person, “I don’t see your color; I just see you.”

In my experience, it is always applied to people of color (nearly always by White people).

For the students of color whose race is core to their identities, the comment effectively causes many to feel “invisible.”

“Then you don’t see me,” one student of color once responded.

Multiracial students who look very White have shared stories of having their faces examined, often by White people, looking for “what else” is in there. The whole scenario assumes white is the norm and the something “else,” the color, is not.

Altering the scenarios often serves to illuminate the flaws in such comments. For example, I once said to my Jewish wife, “I don’t see your Jewishness; I just see you.” Until I explained my intentions, the experiment did not help our marriage.

5. Colorblindness Hinders Tracking Racial Disparities

Racial labels and terms are complex, evolving, sometimes limiting, and often problematic. But the problems associated with the colorblindness are arguably far worse. Without being color conscious, we would never know:

  • Black preschoolers are three times more likely to be suspended than White students. Preschoolers. This data from a federal study has prompted some to rename the school-to-prison pipeline the preschool-to-prison pipeline.
  • In Seattle, despite making up just a tiny fraction of the district population, Native American students had a “push-out” rate (more commonly known as “drop-out” rate) of 42% during the 2011-2012 school year.
  • In the school district in which I work, Seattle Public Schools, Black middle school students are nearly four times more likely to suspended than White students, a disparity that prompted a federal investigation by the Department of Education. (See graph below.)

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Unfortunately, deep racial disparities are not limited to education.

If a person’s race truly shouldn’t matter – which I acknowledge most people are trying to communicate when they espouse colorblindness – then such disparities wouldn’t exist.

With such staggering disparities, again I ask: Who benefits when we ignore such racial categories? Certainly not those most negatively affected.

6. Colorblindness Is Disingenuous

If you are saying “I don’t see color; I just people,” I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe you.

Essentially, you are saying that that you don’t notice any difference between Lupita Nyong’o and, say, Anne Hathaway, two similarly aged actresses who I’m betting have never been confused for each other. They are both just people, exactly the same.

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Really? Again, I just don’t believe you. And Idris Elba playing James Bond won’t ruffle any feathers, right? (Just like no one noticed when he played a Norse god in Thor.)

Was it really just openly racist people who objected to these casting choices or were they joined by proponents of colorblindness?

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Or when you see a group of Black youth walking toward you on the sidewalk, you feel the exact same feeling as when it’s group of White youth?

Though the concept of race is a social construct and ever changing, let’s just be honest that those of us who can see really do see the physical differences (skin, hair, eye shape) commonly associated with what we call “race.” If you are choosing colorblindness to avoid being racist, you have chosen the wrong strategy.

7. Colorblind Ideology Is a Form of Racism

In fact, just a few years ago, Psychology Today published an article titled “Colorblind Ideology Is a Form of Racism.” See?

Colorblindness is far more of a threat to racial justice than White Supremacists (who seem to be quite color conscious). After all, if you can’t discuss a problem, how can you ever solve it?

As Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun famously wrote, “To overcome racism, one must first take race into account.”

But if you don’t believe Blackmun, just ask PBS, arguably the least controversial resource a teacher can ever hope to use in the classroom. On the website of the PBS series, The Power of an Illusion, it is written in no uncertain terms: “Colorblindness will not end racism.””

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All Lives Matter Myth

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John Halstead: The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter’

“Black people, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of being “colorblind.” They live in a culture which constantly reminds them of their Black-ness, which tells them in a million large and small ways that they are not as important as white people, that their lives actually do not matter as much as white lives. Which is why saying “Black Lives Matter” is so important.

“All Lives Matter” is a problem because it refocuses the issue away from systemic racism and Black lives. It distracts and diminishes the message that Black lives matter or that they should matter more than they do. “All Lives Matter” is really code for “White Lives Matter,” because when white people think about “all lives,” we automatically think about “all white lives.”

We need to say “Black Lives Matter,” because we’re not living it. No one is questioning whether white lives matter or whether police lives matter. But the question of whether Black lives really matter is an open question in this country.”

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Huffington Post: The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter’

Why “Black” Makes Us Uncomfortable

“Dear fellow white people, let’s have an honest talk about why we say “All Lives Matter.” First of all, notice that no one was saying “All Lives Matter” before people started saying “Black Lives Matter.” So “All Lives Matter” is a response to “Black Lives Matter.” Apparently, something about the statement “Black Lives Matter” makes us uncomfortable. Why is that?

Now some white people might say that singling out Black people’s lives as mattering somehow means that white lives don’t matter. Of course, that’s silly. If you went to a Breast Cancer Awareness event, you wouldn’t think that they were saying that other types of cancer don’t matter. And you’d be shocked if someone showed up with a sign saying “Colon Cancer Matters” or chanting “All Cancer Patients Matter.” So clearly, something else is prompting people to say “All Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter.”

Many of the people saying “All Lives Matter” also are fond of saying “Blue Lives Matter.” If you find that the statement “Black Lives Matter” bothers you, but not “Blue Lives Matter,” then the operative word is “Black”. That should tell us something. There’s something deeply discomfiting about the word “Black.” I think it’s because it reminds us of our whiteness and challenges our notion that race doesn’t matter.

The Problem With “Colorblindness”

If you’re like me, growing up, the word “Black” was always spoken of in whispers in your family. It was like we were saying something taboo. Why was that? Because it was taboo. We might feel more comfortable saying “African-American,” but not “Black.” The reason is that we were raised to believe that “colorblindness” was the ideal for whites. We were taught that we shouldn’t “see color.” And saying the word “Black” was an acknowledgment of the fact that we did “see color.”

The problem with being “colorblind” — aside from the fact that we’re not really — is that it is really a white privilege to be able to ignore race. White people like me have the luxury of not paying attention to race — white or black. The reason is because whiteness is treated as the default in our society. Whiteness is not a problem for white people, because it blends into the cultural background.

Black people, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of being “colorblind.” They live in a culture which constantly reminds them of their Black-ness, which tells them in a million large and small ways that they are not as important as white people, that their lives actually do not matter as much as white lives. Which is why saying “Black Lives Matter” is so important.

“Black Lives [Do Not] Matter”

“All Lives Matter” is a problem because it refocuses the issue away from systemic racism and Black lives. It distracts and diminishes the message that Black lives matter or that they should matter more than they do. “All Lives Matter” is really code for “White Lives Matter,” because when white people think about “all lives,” we automatically think about “all white lives.”

We need to say “Black Lives Matter,” because we’re not living it. No one is questioning whether white lives matter or whether police lives matter. But the question of whether Black lives really matter is an open question in this country. Our institutions act like Black lives do not matter. The police act like Black lives do not matter when they shoot unarmed Black people with their arms in the air and when Blacks are shot at two and a half times the rate of whites, even when whites are armed. The judicial system acts like Black lives don’t matter when Blacks are given more severe sentences than whites who commit the same crimes and are turned into chattel in a for-profit prison-industrial complex.

And white people act like Black lives do not matter when we fail to raise the appropriate level of outrage at unjustified killings of Blacks or when we respond with platitudes like “All Lives Matter.”

But we still say it. We say it because “All Lives Matter” lets us get back to feeling comfortable. “Black Lives Matter” makes us uncomfortable. Why? Because it reminds us that race exists. It reminds us that our experience as white people is very different from the experience of Black people in this country. It reminds us that racism is alive and well in the United States of America.

The New Face of Racism

Now, I just said the “R” word, so you’re probably feeling defensive at this point. You’re instinctively thinking to yourself that you are not a racist. You may be thinking that you have Black friends or that you don’t use the N-word or that you would never consciously discriminate against a Black person. But most racism today is more subtle than that. Sure, there is a lot of overt racism that still goes on. The KKK is still active and some white people do still say the N-word. But overt racism is really culturally unacceptable any more among whites today. The racism that we need to face today is much more insidious than white hoods and racial slurs. It is the racism of well-meaning people who are not consciously or intentionally racist.

The racism that we need to face is the racism of average white middle-class Americans who would never think of saying the N-word and would vociferously condemn the KKK, but nevertheless unwittingly participate in institutionalized racism. We most often participate in racism by omission, rather than commission. We participate in racism when we fail to see it where it exists. We participate in racism when we continue to act like race is a problem that only Black people have. We participate in racism when we seek comfortable responses like “All Lives Matter.”

What We Can Do: Embrace the Discomfort

We white people need to embrace our discomfort. Here are some things we can do:

1. Recognize that we are not “colorblind.”

We can start by recognizing that we all have an “implicit bias” toward Blacks. Think you don’t have it? Consider how we mentally congratulate ourselves when we treat the random Black person the same way we treat white people. Here’s a tip, if you give yourself brownie points for treating Black people like you do white people, you’re not really treating Black people like white people.

Still don’t think you have unconscious bias, go to the Harvard implicit bias testing website and take the tests on race and skin-tone. Even white anti-racism activists like me have these biases. And they come out in all kinds of subtle ways, as well as not so subtle ways.

2. Work against unconscious bias by spending time with Black people in Black spaces.

Next, go out of your way to spend time with Black people in Black community settings. Many of us live segregated lives in which we have little to no interaction with Black people. Let’s face it, Black people make us white people uncomfortable. It’s because we’ve been socialized by a racist system to fear Black people.

Even if you feel comfortable around individual Black people, you most likely do not feel comfortable in a room full of Black people. You might have Black friends, but you probably socialize with them in white spaces. Have you ever been to a Black space and felt uncomfortable? Maybe you felt like no one wanted you there. Welcome to the everyday experience of Black people in white culture.

And when you go to a Black space, go to listen rather than lead. Learn to follow. Leading is a white privilege. Let go of it for a while and learn from those whose experience you will never have. Listen to Black people, and if what they are saying or how they are saying it makes you uncomfortable, so much the better.

3. Talk to white people about institutional racism and say “Black Lives Matter.”

It’s no good sitting around feeling guilty about white privilege. We need to do something about it. One thing we can do is to use our white privilege to dismantle it.

One white privilege we have is that other white people listen to us. We can go into white spaces and talk to white people about implicit bias and institutional racism. We can unapologetically proclaim that “Black Lives Matter.”

After the Orlando shooting, I went to an interfaith vigil in my small conservative town. Almost no one among the speakers said the words “queer,” “gay,” or “lesbian.” This was probably unconscious, but it revealed a lingering, but deepseated discomfort among heterosexuals with gayness and queerness, a discomfort that the popular use of the acronym “LGBT” obscures. Similarly, we whites are uncomfortable with Black-ness. We don’t even like like to say the word. It feels wrong in our mouths. We hide it by using code words like “inner city” or “urban,” terms which allow us to hide from our unconscious racism. We need to say “Black Lives Matter” because we need to overcome our discomfort with Blacks and face up to our unconscious bias.

Join the Second Civil Rights Movement

Dear fellow white people, we are in the middle of a second Civil Rights Movement. Most of us white people idealize Martin Luther King, Jr. and we like to think that we would have been on his side of things during the Civil Rights era. But the fact is that the majority of the American public did not support the Civil Rights movement while it was happening and only came to see King as a hero after he was killed.

The Civil Rights movement was unpopular among most whites when it was happening. It was unpopular because it made white people deeply uncomfortable. Today, the Black Lives Matter movement makes us uncomfortable, too. In forty years we will look back on this second Civil Rights movement and have to ask ourselves whether we were on the right side of history. If we want to be on the right side of history this time, we have to make ourselves uncomfortable. There is no comfortable way to change. And the change can start with saying this simple but powerful phrase: Black Lives Matter.”

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White Feminism and Intersectionality

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“Straight black men and white women will always be the weakest links in the struggle for equality because they view equality as achieving status with white men. The problem with that is that white men’s status is contingent on the oppression of other people” Angela Davis

Wikipedia: White feminism

White feminism is a form of feminism that focuses on the struggles of white women while failing to address distinct forms of oppression often faced by women of colour and women lacking other privileges.

Background

Over the past 400+ years, in predominantly white societies, issues with black women have continuously not been talked about, so the true historical struggles of black women are not widely known. African American women have always been viewed as a different “kind/type” of woman than American white women. White women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were not expected to work and were expected to stay at home and take care of the kids and the house. They were always seen as too delicate to go out and work a job. But, black women were expected to work all day, come home and cook, then take care of the kids and the house. Society never let black women be seen as “feminine” or delicate as white women, so they always had to carry a heavier social workload. This is how black women have been perceived since the 1700s during slavery, so by the time the first wave of feminism came around, black women and their issues were not included in the feminist movement. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony prioritized their suffrage over black men, so black women were not even a consideration to receive suffrage. This is all ironic due to women being excluded from the Fourteenth Amendment and the Fifteenth Amendment, but then the feminists excluded other marginalized groups from getting the same rights that they fought for. Now, in these third and fourth waves of feminism, it is okay to say that black women are treated the same as white women, but this is just not always the case. Within the feminist movements, white women are overall still at the forefront and still discuss issues that directly affect them. So, the issues that are specific to minority women are still being pushed to the side as they were during the first wave of feminism.

In first-wave feminism

First-wave feminism began in the 19th century and continued into the early 20th century, and focused primarily on legal issues pertaining to women, especially women’s suffrage. This wave officially started after Seneca Falls and emerged out of an environment of urban industrialism and liberal, socialist politics and the goal of this wave was to open up opportunities for women, with a focus on suffrage. It was a movement predominantly organized and defined by middle-class, educated white women, and concentrated mostly on issues pertaining to them.

Some ethnic minority women were embraced in the movement, such as suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh among the British first-wave feminists. However, there is little evidence that black women participated in the British suffragette effort. In 1893, New Zealand became the first nation to grant women of all races the right to vote; this was met with anger from suffragists including Millicent Fawcett, who expressed displeasure that Māori women in one of the British colonies were able to vote, while British women of society were not.  Susan B. Anthony (a staunch abolitionist) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought for white women to get the right to vote in the United States of America, prioritising this above black men getting the right to vote. Anthony and Stanton were wary of creating an “aristocracy of sex”; rather, they proposed universal suffrage, such that the black community and women (including black women) get enfranchised at the same time.

In second-wave feminism

Second-wave feminism, particularly at its outset, was similarly shaped by middle-class, educated white women, and again did not tend to consider issues relevant specifically to ethnic minority women

During the second and third-wave feminist periods, scholars from marginalised communities began to write back against the way feminist movements had been essentializing the experiences of women. The notable feminist scholar bell hooks brought this issue to the forefront of feminist thought, regularly writing about the struggles that black women experienced and emphasizing that the feminist movement was exclusionary towards those women by virtue of its inattention to the interactions between race, gender, and class. Hooks argued that white women should recognise that they, like ethnic minority men, occupied a position of being both oppressed while also being oppressors.

Today

Today’s feminists sometimes emphasize intersectional perspectives in their work.Despite this, some have argued that feminist media continues to overrepresent the struggles of straight, middle class, white women. The position held by certain modern feminist authors that racism is not an element of society that feminism needs to be concerned with has also been cited as exemplifying white feminism.

It has also been argued that the beliefs of some feminists that hijabs, burqas, and niqabs are oppressive toward Muslim women are representative of white feminism. Notably, many Muslim women have spoken out in defense of their religious dress practices.

White feminism portrays a view of feminism that can be separated from issues of class, race, ability, and other oppressions. An example of white feminism in the present day can be seen in the work of Emily Shire, the politics editor at Bustle and an op-ed contributor for The New York Times. Shire argues that feminism excludes some women who do not share political viewpoints when it takes positions on Israel and Palestine, efforts to raise the minimum wage, and efforts to block the construction of oil pipelines. Shire’s position contrasts with intersectional feminist activists who view pay equity, social justice, and international human rights as essential and inseparable commitments of feminism, as articulated in the Day Without a Woman platform that “[recognizes] the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system – while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity”. While Shire advocates for a feminism that achieves inclusivity by avoiding political positions so as to not alienate women who disagree with those positions, organizers of the Women’s March hold the principle that “women have intersecting identities” necessitating a movement that focuses on a “comprehensive agenda”.

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Everday Feminism: To White Feminists Who Don’t Want to Discuss Racism: Here Are 7 Things You Need to Know

“I thought that race and gender were two distinct issues. But what I know now is 1) intersectional feminism means that I should care about issues that don’t necessarily affect me, because that’s generally a good rule for being a decent human, and 2) the fact that I am a white person is exactly why I should care about racism.

But before I knew those things, I was the very picture of white feminism. What is white feminism? If you’re new to the term, there’s been a lot already written on the topic. A great place to start is here. Go read up, and come back. I’ll wait.

Put simply, white feminism is a form of feminism (usually, but not always) practiced by some white people (usually, but not always, women) that sees gender as a separate issue from all other identities.  White feminism lacks any intersectionality.  It fails to take other issues into context when it examines gender.

Furthermore, white feminism, in its antagonism of Black people, often erases and invisibilizes other people of color from the conversation. Race is often reduced to a Black and White issue, when there are so many other races that need to be acknowledged.  Now, it is possible to be a white feminist who doesn’t practice white feminism. It’s something that I strive to do every day.

I don’t always succeed, of course. I’m still a white person in a white supremacist world who has internalized those messages. Dismantling them takes a lifetime. And that is what I hope to do with my feminism – dismantle white supremacy (among other things). As I was writing this piece, Nashwa Khan’s Twitter gave me a really good nugget for thought about white people distancing themselves from whiteness versus dismantling whiteness

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Ny Times: How the Suffrage Movement Betrayed Black Women

“The suffragist heroes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony seized control of the feminist narrative of the 19th century. Their influential history of the movement still governs popular understanding of the struggle for women’s rights and will no doubt serve as a touchstone for commemorations that will unfold across the United States around the centennial of the 19th Amendment in 2020.

That narrative, in the six-volume “History of Women’s Suffrage,” betrays more than a hint of vanity when it credits the Stanton-Anthony cohort with starting a movement that actually had diverse origins and many mothers. Its worst offenses may be that it rendered nearly invisible the black women who labored in the suffragist vineyard and that it looked away from the racism that tightened its grip on the fight for the women’s vote in the years after the Civil War.

Historians who are not inclined to hero worship — including Elsa Barkley Brown, Lori Ginzberg and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn — have recently provided an unsparing portrait of this once-neglected period. Stripped of her halo, Stanton, the campaign’s principal philosopher, is exposed as a classic liberal racist who embraced fairness in the abstract while publicly enunciating bigoted views of African-American men, whom she characterized as “Sambos” and incipient rapists in the period just after the war. The suffrage struggle itself took on a similar flavor, acquiescing to white supremacy — and selling out the interests of African-American women — when it became politically expedient to do so. This betrayal of trust opened a rift between black and white feminists that persists to this day.

This toxic legacy looms especially large as cities, including New York, prepare monuments and educational programs to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, which barred the states from denying voting rights based on gender. Black feminists in particular are eager to see if these remembrances own up to the real history of the fight for the vote — and whether black suffragists appear in them.

The famous suffrage convention convened in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848 featured Stanton and her partner-in-arms, Lucretia Mott, in addition to the towering figure of Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist and dyed-in-the-wool supporter of women’s rights who was on his way to becoming one of the most famous speakers of the century. Were it not for Douglass’s oratory, the historian Lisa Tetrault tells us in “The Myth of Seneca Falls,” the “controversial” resolution demanding the vote for women might actually have failed.

It became clear after the Civil War that black and white women had different views of why the right to vote was essential. White women were seeking the vote as a symbol of parity with their husbands and brothers. Black women, most of whom lived in the South, were seeking the ballot for themselves and their men, as a means of empowering black communities besieged by the reign of racial terror that erupted after Emancipation.

The tension escalated in the run-up to the 15th Amendment, a provision that ostensibly barred the states from denying Negro men the right to vote. Reasonable people could, of course, disagree on the merits of who should first be given the vote — women or black men. Stanton, instead, embarked on a Klan-like tirade against the amendment. She warned that white woman would be degraded if Negro men preceded them into the franchise. Admiring historians have dismissed this as an unfortunate interlude in an exemplary life. By contrast, the historian Lori Ginzberg argues persuasively that racism and elitism were enduring features of the great suffragist’s makeup and philosophy.

Similarly, the historian Faye Dudden wrote that Stanton “dipped her pen into a tincture of white racism and sketched a reference to a nightmarish figure, the black rapist,” and lashed out from the pages of the suffragist paper that she and Anthony published. Her message — that passage of the 15th Amendment would mean only degradation for women at the hands of Negro men — must have cheered the Ku Klux Klan as it terrorized the black South.

Douglass was clearly wounded by what he described as the “employment of certain names, such as ‘Sambo,’ and the gardener, and the bootblack … and all the rest,” but gracefully declined to answer insult with insult. Instead, he summarized in dramatic fashion the differences between the interests of black and white suffragists — and the case for federal protection of black voters.

“When women, because they are women,” he said, “are hunted down through the cities of New York and New Orleans; when they are dragged from their houses and hung upon lampposts; when their children are torn from their arms and their brains dashed out upon the pavement; when they are objects of insult and outrage at every turn; when they are in danger of having their homes burnt down over their heads; when their children are not allowed to enter schools; then they will have an urgency to obtain the ballot equal to our own.”

Douglass cut to the central fallacy of the white suffragist push — that African-American women could magically separate their blackness from their femaleness.

The 15th Amendment was, of course, ratified. Women would wait another 50 years for the 19th. Racism intensified among suffragists as they neared their goals. African-American luminaries like the noted anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells and the civil rights leader Mary Church Terrell became more deeply and publicly engaged.

As in other instances, suffragists outside the South used the racism in the Jim Crow states as an excuse for their discriminatory treatment of their black suffragist sisters. Black women’s suffrage clubs that sought formal affiliation with the national white suffrage movement were discouraged from doing so on the grounds that admitting them might anger white Southerners. It has since become clear that this was a ruse Northern whites used to obscure their own discriminatory policies.

The most blatant example of accommodationism came in 1913 when organizers of a huge suffragist parade in Washington demanded that black participants march in an all-black assembly at the back of the parade instead of with their state delegations. Wells famously refused. Terrell, who marched in a colored delegation as requested, believed at the time that white suffragists would exclude black women from the 19th Amendment — nicknamed the Anthony Amendment — if they thought they could get away with it. These episodes fueled within the African-American community a lasting suspicion of white suffragists and of the very idea of political cooperation across racial lines.

Historians are rightly warning groups involved in suffrage commemorations not to overstate the significance of the 19th Amendment. It covered the needs of middle-class white women quite nicely. But it meant very little to black women in the South, where most lived at the time and where election officials were well practiced in the art of obstructing black access to the ballot box. As African-American women streamed in to register, Southern officials merely stepped up the level of fraud and intimidation.

By this time, the former suffragists of the North were celebrating the amendment and were uninterested in fighting discrimination against women who were suffering racial, as opposed to gender, discrimination. As the historian Rosalyn Terborg-Penn writes: “Within a few years, white supremacy was victorious throughout the South. Unlike Black men, who had been disenfranchised within 20 years after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, Black women had lost the vote in less than a decade.” It would take another half-century — and a new suffrage campaign, with black women in a leading role — before that black community was fully enfranchised, through the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The recent uproar over the monuments to white supremacy that dominate public spaces in the South has put civic groups on notice that memorials often convey pernicious messages and perpetuate historical wrongs. Organizers need to keep that in mind as they commemorate a movement in which racism clearly played a central role.”

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Aint I a Woman Speech by Sojourner Truth

1851 Women’s Rights Conference in Akron, Ohio

“When Sojourner Truth rose to speak, many white women urged that she be silenced, fearing that she would divert attention from women’s suffrage to emancipation.” Kimberlé Crenshaw, Legal Scholar

ISR: Black feminism and intersectionality

…Truth’s words vividly contrast the character of oppression faced by white and Black women. While white middle-class women have traditionally been treated as delicate and overly emotional—destined to subordinate themselves to white men—Black women have been denigrated and subject to the racist abuse that is a foundational element of US society. Yet, as Crenshaw notes, “When Sojourner Truth rose to speak, many white women urged that she be silenced, fearing that she would divert attention from women’s suffrage to emancipation,” invoking a clear illustration of the degree of racism within the suffrage movement.

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Screen Shot 2020-06-09 at 8.06.03 PMSource: the.mirror

Screen Shot 2019-08-03 at 1.46.37 PM.png“If your only goal is to “break the glass ceiling” consider who all those shards of glass will be falling on if you’re not bringing the most marginalized women with you.

The second wave of the feminist movement began to push for (white) women leaving their homes, having access to the workforce just like white men — what that often looked like was hem simply brining in women of color to pick up their slack at home yet not coughing up the same rights they were demanding from the white male work force such as living wage, health care access and fair employment practices like rational work hours and paid sick days.

Listen to me closely: if your feminism simply means “getting even” with white men it’s not ever going to be an intersectional, inclusive and justice based movement.” Rachel Cargle

WTF is Intersectional Feminism?

Intersectionality

“Intersectionality is a sociological theory describing multiple threats of discrimination when an individual’s identities overlap with a number of minority classes — such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, health and other characteristics.” Steve Williams – Care 2

  • For example
    • a woman of color may face sexism in the workplace, compounded by pervasive racism
    • trans women of color face exceptionally high levels of discrimination and threats of violence
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Intersectionality w/ Rowan Ellis! | Ahsante the Artist

History of Intersectionality

  • Bell Hooks, an early pioneer of intersectionality
    • Argued during the 2nd and 3rd wave, that white women should recognize that they, like ethnic minority men, occupied a position of being both oppressed while also being oppressors.
  • The Combahee River Collective
    • Black feminist lesbian organization active in Boston from 1974 to 1980
      • expanded black feminist and intersectionality ideas and coined the term “identity politics”
    • “The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face.”
  • Legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “Intersectionality”
    • 1989 essay “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, Violence Against Women of Color”
    • “Consider an analogy to traffic in an intersection, coming and going in all four directions. Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars traveling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them. Similarly, if a Black woman is harmed because she is in an intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination or race discrimination. . . . But it is not always easy to reconstruct an accident: Sometimes the skid marks and the injuries simply indicate that they occurred simultaneously, frustrating efforts to determine which driver caused the harm.”

“Crenshaw argues that Black women are discriminated against in ways that often do not fit neatly within the legal categories of either “racism” or “sexism”—but as a combination of both racism and sexism. Yet the legal system has generally defined sexism as based upon an unspoken reference to the injustices confronted by all (including white) women, while defining racism to refer to those faced by all (including male) Blacks and other people of color. This framework frequently renders Black women legally “invisible” and without legal recourse.” Sharon Smith, ISR

Care2: What Is Intersectionality?

“Intersectionality is a sociological theory describing multiple threats of discrimination when an individual’s identities overlap with a number of minority classes — such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, health and other characteristics.

For example, a woman of color may face sexism in the workplace, which is compounded by pervasive racism. Similarly, trans women of color face exceptionally high levels of discrimination and threats of violence. Looking through the lens of intersectionality, it’s not hard to see why: these women potentially face anti-trans prejudice, sexism, misogyny, racism and — due to the ignorance surrounding trans identity — homophobia.

While intersectionality is traditionally applied to women, a person of any gender may be affected by this phenomena of overlapping minority status. A man from a Hispanic background could face xenophobia in today’s America despite being a naturalized citizen. If that Hispanic man is in his 50s, ageism might add to the discrimination he could face in trying to secure employment.

More precisely though, intersectionality describes the hierarchical nature of power and the fact that belonging to multiple discriminated classes can mean that one’s issues are ignored.”

Bustle: 7 Things Feminists Of Color Want White Feminists To Know

“Since the now-infamous Miley Cyrus / Nicki Minaj feud back in August, we’ve been talking more and more about White Feminism — feminism that blatantly leaves out the concerns and issues of women of color. It’s not always a pleasant conversation to have, but it’s a conversation that is more necessary now than ever. There are a lot of things feminists of color want white feminists to know. Hopefully, now that the feminist movement is finally beginning to address how women of color have historically been disregarded in the fight for gender equality, women of every demographic will start listening to each other.The hard truth is white feminists are privileged in ways that feminists of color simply can’t relate to, and it’s not even really their fault. Yes, some white feminists don’t acknowledge their privilege, and that’s wrong. However, our society is also to blame for pretending that race relations in the U.S. are more advanced than they actually are.

As an individual of mixed race, displays of White Feminism (like seeing white women as the primary spokespeople for feminist theories which women of color created in the first place) are difficult for me to stomach. On a more personal level, I’ve witnessed hardworking nonwhite women in my family face systemic prejudices that most white women will never understand, such as low-quality healthcare and low-wage jobs that promise little hope of upward mobility.

I know I can’t singlehandedly fix all the discord within the feminist community, but I can tell you these seven things this feminist of color wants white women to know.

1. There Is A Lot Of Racism In The History Of Feminism

Some of America’s most well-known feminists were unfortunately racist. In the early 1900s, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the leader of the American suffrage movement, expressed anger over the fact that white women were denied the right to vote while “degraded black men” were given the opportunity to line up at the polls. Another suffragist, Frances Willard, refused to support the prevention of lynching in the South because she believed that black men were drunken menaces who were collectively guilty of raping white women.

Moreover, white women leading equality campaigns in Washington, D.C. blatantly requested that black suffragists walk at the back of their parades. As a result, some black women chose not to march at all, refusing to participate in yet another form of segregation.

2. White Feminism Is Very Real

White Feminism marginalizes women of color. White Feminism fails to give feminists of color a platform to discuss how racial inequality relates to gender inequality. It consistently reminds us that the beauty standard in our culture remains thin, blonde, and white.

White Feminism is present in academia, Hollywood, our government, and the Internet. In addition to excluding women of color from feminism, it excludes women who aren’t straight or able-bodied as well.

3. We’re All Responsible For Making Feminism More Inclusive

It’s easy to accuse women like Miley Cyrus and Lena Dunham of promoting White Feminism in the media, but pointing fingers won’t help the feminist movement progress. A more useful way for feminists to spend their time is to collectively strive for intersectionality.

Often, women of privilege don’t even realize that they’re excluding other marginalized groups. This isn’t an excuse for their behavior, but it is a chance for women of color to honestly tell feminists of privilege how their lack of self-awareness affects other women. By helping each other recognize that women of different races, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses experience gender inequality differently, we can all become more inclusive feminists.

4. Some Women Of Color Don’t Feel Comfortable Calling Themselves Feminists

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Because of the tension between themselves and White Feminism, it’s no surprise that many women of color are uneasy identifying as feminists. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t lobbying for equal rights across the board; we just can’t ignore the racism in the movement’s history. More importantly, we’re hyper-aware of the harmful discourse that has been developed in mainstream feminism, and we’re rightfully upset about the fact that our disenfranchisement is largely ignored.

These feelings aren’t new. In the 1980s — when pale, blonde Gloria Steinem was the poster child for mainstream feminism — women of color were birthing the womanist and mujerista movements in response to being left out. In her book In Search Of Our Mothers’ Garden, Alice Walker defined a “womanist” as a black feminist or feminist of color. Then, mujerista (developed from the Spanish word for woman, mujer) was seized by Latinas to “claim their space over white feminists.”

Both of these movements still have their followers today. However, many feminists of color don’t identify with these groups either, so they simply don’t feel like they have a place in the feminist movement at all.

5. Our Struggle Is Different Than Yours

The plight of a middle-class, straight, white, American woman is not the same as that of an uneducated, gay, American woman of color. While the former fights for equal pay and paid maternity leave, the latter is more concerned with stopping race-related police brutality, acquiring better funding for inner-city public schools, and developing more comprehensive treatment programs for HIV.

In an essay for Salon, Brittney Cooper, professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University, puts it into perspective. She points out that feminists are concerned with equality, while feminists of color (especially black feminists) are battling injustice. She says, “One kind of feminism focuses on the policies that will help women integrate fully into the existing American system. The other recognizes the fundamental flaws in the system and seeks its complete and total transformation.”

Until we can all understand this difference and find a way to bridge these two goals, many women of color will refuse to identify themselves as feminists.

6. We Want To Be Heard

As Ijeoma Oluo wrote in a thought-provoking piece for Ravishly, when women of color speak up truthfully about race and feminism, we’re either dismissed or “told that our complaints are ‘divisive,’ and that we should be focusing on the ‘real enemy.’” In other words, we shouldn’t talk about how racial inequality and gender inequality intersect. For example, when Nicki Minaj used Twitter as a platform to shed light on the lack of representation of black women in the 2015 VMA nominations, Miley Cyrus told The New York Times that she was “not very polite.”

Even more troubling than how women of color are underrepresented in the media, though, is the fact that black and Latina women are disproportionately poor and receive very little public aid, and that black women are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.

Asking women of color to keep quiet about how racial inequality affects them will keep the feminist movement divided.

7. We Don’t Want To Be Spoken For

The overwhelming majority of writers, activists, and celebrities representing feminism are white women of privilege. Think of Patricia Arquette’s infamous speech at last year’s Oscars ceremony, or Emma Watson’s status as ambassador for the He for She campaign. It’s not that these women aren’t doing good things, but that women of color can no longer disregard the fact that we aren’t properly represented in our society or in the feminist movement.

In a memorable debate about the whiteness of feminism between Rebecca Traister and Judith Shulevitz, two senior editors of the New Republic, Traister brought up how ironic it was that both participants were white, educated women from New York City.

Regardless of their good intentions, white feminists should not be the only feminists speaking for women of color. We deserve a platform from which we can discuss how our race impacts our feminism, and we deserve to be included in the mainstream feminist movement. Period.”

Rachel Cargle: When Feminism Is White Supremacy in Heels

When I heard about the tragic murder of 18-year-old Nia Wilson, who was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack in Oakland last month, I could feel my heart begin to bleed. My community of black women were grieving yet again.

As we grappled with the realities of Nia’s death, I began to use Instagram to facilitate a discussion and flesh out questions like: How many more black women and girls must die before mainstream media considers it a worthy story to cover? How could they possibly take away her white male murderer so gently in handcuffs, while black men are thrown to the ground during traffic stops? Why aren’t the recorded wails of her mother and the tears of her father enough for the whole world to be demanding justice right now? And where are the voices of all my white feminist friends when a black woman had been tragically murdered?

Almost immediately, at my request, hundreds of commenters asked the white women who they saw as friends and leaders to use their platform to highlight the tragedy of Nia’s death with the same outrage of their black feminist allies. And many did—both demanding that justice be served while expressing their disbelief that such a story hadn’t gained national attention in the same way that Laci Peterson’s or JonBenét Ramsey’s had. But there were just as many white women—women whose bios claim titles like “social justice warrior” and “intersectional feminist”—that somehow took this call for solidarity as a personal attack.

“White women who claim titles like ‘intersectional feminist’ somehow took this call for solidarity as a personal attack.”

Instead of sharing in the outrage of Nia’s brutal murder, they came with fury for being tagged in a post that they felt challenged their own perceived feminist accomplishments. There were grand displays of defensiveness, demands that they be acknowledged for all the things they had done for black people in the past, and a terrifying lashing out that included racial slurs and doxing.

The fragility of these women was not a surprise to me. In a crucial moment of showing up for our marginalized community, there was more concern about their feelings and ego as opposed to the fight forward for women as a whole. What could have been a much-needed and integral display of solidarity and true intersectionality quickly became a live play-by-play of the toxicity that white-centered feminism can bring to the table of activism.

It is the type of behavior that rests under the guise of feminism only as long as it is comfortable, only as long it is personally rewarding, only as long as it keeps “on brand.” But if the history of this movement taught us anything, it is that intersectionality in feminism is vital. We cannot forget the ways that suffragettes dismissed the voices of black women, sending them to the backs of their marches, only for black activists like Ida B. Wells and Anna Julia Cooper to make major moves while fighting for the vote in tandem with their fight for rights as black people—ultimately shifting the shape of this country. If there is not the intentional and action-based inclusion of women of color, then feminism is simply white supremacy in heels.

Going up against liberal progressive white feminists who refuse to let down their guard of “ultimate liberation” to actually learn from women of color—who have been fighting this fight with grit and grace for generations—is the most straining part being a black feminist activist. Still, as disheartening as the actions of many of these women who were “called in” became, my highest hope is that this bizarre episode serves as a lesson, a dissection if you will, of what toxic white feminism actually looks like. Let’s take a dive into a few of the items in The Toxic White Feminism Playbook:

Tone Policing

When women of color begin to cry out about their pain, frustration, and utter outrage with the system that is continuing to allow our men to murdered, our babies to be disregarded, and our livelihood to be dismissed, we are often met with white women who tell us perhaps we should “say things a little nicer” if we want to be respected and heard.

Spiritual Bypassing

The easiest way for white women to skirt around the realities of racism is to just “love and light it away”. When confronted with ways they have offended a marginalized group with their words or actions, they immediately start to demand unity and peace; painting those they harmed as aggressive, mean, or divisive.

White Savior Complex

Many white women insist that there is no way they could be part of the problem because of their extensive resume of what they’ve “done for you people.” Instead of listening to what the women of color are trying to express, they instead whip out the Nice Things I’ve Done For Black People In The Past, which often includes everything from “says hi to the black man next door every single morning” to “saved a black child through adoption and treats them just as nicely as my white children.”

Centering

This is the most common of all. White women get so caught up in how they feel in a moment of black women expressing themselves that they completely vacuum the energy, direction, and point of the conversation to themselves and their feelings. They start to explain why race is hard for them to talk about, what they think would be a better solution to the topic at hand, and perhaps what women of color can do to make it more palatable.

As these things play out over and over again, it is made painfully obvious that many white women believe that the worst thing that can happen to them is to be called a racist. Let me be clear, it is not. Seeing your child gunned down in the street by the police unjustly is much worse, being turned away for medical care due to race and underlying biases by medical staff, resulting in death, is much worse, being harassed by authorities only to be charged yourself instead is much worse.

But even moments of explicit dehumanization to the black community haven’t been able to rally the majority of liberal white women to join us in our fight for racial justice. I’ve learned through my work that white women seem to only digest race issues when it is reframed in the light of (white) feminism. So I often have to lay it out this way:

  • When you try to exclude yourself from the conversation of race by saying things like “I don’t see color,” or “I married a black man and have brown kids,” that’s just as irrational as a man saying there is no way he could be sexist or misogynistic because he has a daughter.
  • When you seek to not be lumped into the conversation about oppressive systems against marginalized people, because you view yourself as woke, you are essentially screaming “not all men.”
  • When you try to rationalize police brutality by saying “but black people also kill black people,” you’re coming in with the same argument that men have when they say “she shouldn’t have worn that skirt, she deserves to be raped”.
  • When you walk into black or brown spaces and “suggest” how they can more aptly reach white people on the topic of race you are basically mansplaining, only now it’s whitesplaining how people of color should approach their own activism.
  • When you begin to feel defensive about the conversation of race, demanding explanations, it is like a man walking into a women’s space saying: “Make me feel more comfortable in this moment, even though the point of this space is sorting out how I make you feel uncomfortable everyday in multiple ways.”

So what does allyship actually look like? Accepting the reality of this country’s dynamics. White skin yields white privilege and an ally is willing to use their privilege to fight with and for those who are marginalized. Allyship means voting for elected officials who have a track record of ensuring the most marginalized among us are heard and advocated for. Allyship means using your sphere of influence whether it be your dining room table or the boardroom of your company to call out racist actions and ideals. Allyship means uplifting the voices and experiences of people of color so that we are not continuously drowned out and ignored.

“Many liberal white woman have an immediate reaction of defense when someone challenges their intentions.”

What makes allyship so hard for most? Many liberal white woman have an immediate reaction of defense when someone challenges their intentions. And it is in that precise moment they need to stop and realize they are actually part of the problem. It is never the offender who gets to decide when they’ve offended someone. If you feel yourself dismissing the words or experiences of people of color—because you think they’re “overreacting” or because you “didn’t know” or because “it has nothing to do with race”—it’s often due to your ego, not rationale. Listen and learn, instead.

Dr. Robin DiAngelo, a white woman sociologist who studies critical discourse, reminds us in her new book White Fragility that “the key to moving forward is what we do with our discomfort. We can use it as a door out—blame the messenger and disregard the message. Or we can use it as a door in by asking, Why does this unsettle me? What would it mean for me if this were true?

Racism is as American as pie. In order for the feminist movement to truly be progressive and intersectional, white women must face this fact and begin to take on their load of work. We are long overdue to dismantle this system, which, if it is not intentionally and aggressively addressed, will defeat us all in the end.

Everday Feminism: To White Feminists Who Don’t Want to Discuss Racism: Here Are 7 Things You Need to Know

“I thought that race and gender were two distinct issues. But what I know now is 1) intersectional feminism means that I should care about issues that don’t necessarily affect me, because that’s generally a good rule for being a decent human, and 2) the fact that I am a white person is exactly why I should care about racism.

But before I knew those things, I was the very picture of white feminism. What is white feminism? If you’re new to the term, there’s been a lot already written on the topic. A great place to start is here. Go read up, and come back. I’ll wait.

Put simply, white feminism is a form of feminism (usually, but not always) practiced by some white people (usually, but not always, women) that sees gender as a separate issue from all other identities.  White feminism lacks any intersectionality.  It fails to take other issues into context when it examines gender.

Furthermore, white feminism, in its antagonism of Black people, often erases and invisibilizes other people of color from the conversation. Race is often reduced to a Black and White issue, when there are so many other races that need to be acknowledged.  Now, it is possible to be a white feminist who doesn’t practice white feminism. It’s something that I strive to do every day.

I don’t always succeed, of course. I’m still a white person in a white supremacist world who has internalized those messages. Dismantling them takes a lifetime. And that is what I hope to do with my feminism – dismantle white supremacy (among other things). As I was writing this piece, Nashwa Khan’s Twitter gave me a really good nugget for thought about white people distancing themselves from whiteness versus dismantling whiteness

…But here are some things I’ve learned that you might want to think about:

1. We Don’t Get to Determine What’s Racist

How often do we see something posted about racism, only to then see a bunch of white people jump into the comments to argue about why that thing isn’t actually racist? For example, maybe someone calls out Kylie Jenner for appropriating Black culture with her braided hair. Or maybe they’re pointing out why white people wearing bindis as a fashion statement isn’t cool.

And then a white person comments, “Um, it’s just hair” or “Bindis have nothing to do with skin color.” Or perhaps someone is venting about a racial microaggression they experienced when they were out to dinner, where they felt like they were treated differently by their server because they’re Black.

And the next thing you know, a white person swoops in to say something like, “Wait, how do you know it was because you were Black? I think you’re being paranoid. It was probably just because the server was having a bad night.” But here’s the thing, fellow white people – it’s not on us to decide what is or isn’t racist because we don’t actually experience racism. The people who are experts on racism and therefore get to determine what is racist are the people who live it everyday – people of color.

What Can You Do Instead?

This one is simple: For the love of god, please stop arguing with people of color about what is or isn’t racist. I don’t always understand why something is racist or offensive at first. But I don’t have to understand in order to say, “Oh, okay. I won’t do/say that again.” What matters is that someone who has an identity that I don’t says that something is harmful. That’s enough for me because I don’t want to hurt anyone. If all it takes is for me to stop doing or saying that thing.

I don’t think that’s asking all that much. If you want to be an ally to people of color, it’s a good idea to not debate or discredit the lived experiences that they are sharing. Believe them as the experts on their own lives.

2. Black (And Brown) Lives > White Feelings

Have you ever read something written by a person of color and immediately gotten upset because it made you feel really bad? I have.

Have you ever commented then about how hurtful the initial comments were? Maybe said something to the effect of, “Just because some Muslims are being profiled as terrorists and being unfairly targeted because of it doesn’t mean you have to attack white people.” If this feels familiar to you, I’d highly suggest that you refrain from jumping onto a thread about people of color being victims of fatal violence to talk about your feelings.

Because at the end of the day, Black and brown people are literally losing their lives at the hands of our state, simply because of the color of their skin. Their lives are way more important than our feelings. Always. We might feel a little uncomfortable with some commentary. They risk death every day of their lives, whether they’re in their home or outside of it. These two things cannot be compared in any way.

What Can You Do Instead?

Sit with your discomfort. It’s okay to be uncomfortable, and it’s okay to not understand why you can’t talk about those feelings publicly. But friends of color shouldn’t have to witness you working out your white guilt on their timelines.  That’s something you should do privately, with another white person. Talk to someone else who is an ally in racial justice about how you’re feeling and work it out with them.

Get involved with organizing other white people for racial justice. Showing Up For Racial Justice is a great organization of white folks with chapters all over the United States.

3. Being ‘Colorblind’ Isn’t Actually a Good Thing (Or a Real Thing, For That Matter)

I’m embarrassed to admit that “I don’t see race!” is something that I actually used to say (and aspire to make true). But it’s something that white people say all the time when the subject of race and racism comes up. Or maybe you’ve said, “We’re all one race: the human race.”

In theory, this sounds pretty good, right? And, while yes, you should see everyone the same when it comes to their humanity and their inherent value, being “colorblind” isn’t actually the same as not being racist (and, in fact, it actually is racist). And let’s just stop right here to acknowledge that it’s not just the concept of “colorblindness” that is problematic – the word itself is ableist language.

The first problem with colorblind ideology is that it’s, um, bullshit. Unless someone is physically blind, it’s not realistic to say that they just don’t notice the race of a person. When someone is in front of you, if you have the physical ability to see, you will notice what color their skin is.

But beyond the physical improbability of it, viewing someone completely devoid of racial context actually ignores the very real lived experience of the person standing in front of you. Someone’s race affects the way they move through the world, the way the world treats them, may reflect their culture, and cannot be separated from who they are as a person. It’s the same way that my identity as a woman influences who I am as a person and the way I’ve experienced and interacted with the world.

What Can You Do Instead?

Don’t judge people based on their race, but don’t invalidate their identity, either.  View them as whole, complete people, with many factors that contribute to who they are, with their race being one of them.

4. Yes, Everything Actually Is About Race, So Stop Telling People of Color Not to ‘Make It About Race’

Every time a white person tells a person of color not to make it about race, what we’re really doing is silencing them. Because that’s what telling someone not to “play the race card” is: a silencing tactic. It’s something that white people do to get people of color to stop talking about the racism that they experience. And when we do that, we are actively contributing to that racism.

What Can You Do Instead?

Instead of silencing people of color, work on amplifying their voices. Talk less, pass the mic more.

5. Refrain from #NotAllWhitePeople-ing

Have you ever read an article or a comment thread where people of color are calling out this really racist thing that white people do, and found yourself getting really uncomfortable? I have. It’s a terrible feeling, and one that makes me want to get really, really defensive and yell, “But I don’t do that!” I want people to know that I’m a good person, and I’m not racist.

But what I’ve learned is that feeling of discomfort is actually my white privilege being challenged. And sitting with that discomfort is necessary for growth. And racism is systemic. While individual people contribute to racism, the problem isn’t actually about me or you as people. It’s about larger systems that are at play.

Making it about you (or me) distracts from the very real, very important issue at hand. It centers whiteness in a conversation about people of color.

What Can You Do Instead?

If you feel yourself getting defensive or wanting to #NotAllWhitePeople in the comments, that’s a great time to just. not. say. anything. Seriously. Shut up, sit down, and listen.

I know how hard that is. As white people, we’re often socialized to think that our words and thoughts have more value than anyone else’s, but that’s not true. That’s white supremacy at work. And undoing that conditioning is hard, but we have to be willing to do hard things if we hope to help dismantle racist systems.

6. It’s a Privilege to Be Able to Disengage from Conversations or Thoughts About Racism

I want to ask you a question: Who gets to look away, close the browser, and move on with their day and who doesn’t? Hint: It’s not people of color who have the option of not thinking about racism anymore if they don’t want to. As white people, we have the privilege of deciding that we don’t want to think about this difficult, uncomfortable topic if we don’t want to. But for people of color, who live in a racist world every day and bear the brunt of that racism, they don’t have that option.

What Can You Do Instead?

The fact that we have the ability to stop thinking about racism is exactly why we shouldn’t. Challenge yourself to not look away. Engage with the reality of our racist society, the racism that permeates every aspect of our world. Engage other white people in conversations about it, whether it’s by posting about it on your social media accounts or talking about it at your family dinners.

My social media feed may talk about racism and white supremacy too much. But what I’m doing is forcing my white friends from high school, who still live in an all-white bubble, to think about something outside of their lived reality. And every month or so, a white friend of mine reaches out privately to tell me that the things I post have changed the way they think about the world. And, for me, that’s enough for me to keep doing it.

Another way to be an ally to your friends of color (and this is one I learned the hard way, after someone I cared very deeply about told me that he couldn’t talk to me at that time when I checked in with him after Darren Wilson wasn’t indicted for killing Mike Brown. “It’s not personal,” he said. “It’s your whiteness”): Try not to vent about racism to your friends of color.

Even if you think you want to commiserate over this awful thing that happened or can you believe how messed up cops are, don’t. Your friends are tired, and hearing about this shit over and over is triggering (and something they already know).  Not only that, discussing race with white people can be exhausting, or even violent, for people of color. It’s talking to your oppressor about your oppression. Instead, talk to other white people about it.

7. Don’t ‘Whitesplain’ Racism

“Whitesplaining” is a term used to describe the act of a white person explaining racism to a person (or people) of color. This doesn’t even necessarily have to mean that you’re explaining away racism, or explaining what was really meant by the scenario that a person of color is bringing attention to for being racist. Though it can be that. It can also be a white person with a pretty decent analysis and understanding of white supremacy explaining to a person of color what that analysis is, like the white person is the expert.

I’m guilty of this one myself, particularly because so many of my friends are people of color with a passion for social justice. We all read the same theory (usually written by… wait for it… people of color) and it can be easy to find myself explaining these things I’ve learned to them.

Ouch.

What Can You Do Instead?

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned is to defer to people of color in conversations about race, whether that’s by linking to things written by them or sharing information that you learned from them (while being clear that you did not come up with this idea. Give credit where credit is due: to people of color).

Another way to do this is by not jumping into a comments thread to educate people when people of color are already on the thread and can handle themselves. However, it’s not people of color’s job to educate other white people, and the only time it is acceptable to jump on a thread is to collect other white people who are engaging in racist or problematic behavior.

We should aspire to talk less and amplify voices more.”

Flare: Why We Need to Talk About White Feminism… Like, Now

“Not to be confused with feminism practiced by white people, white feminism is a brand of feminism that minimizes, forgets or wilfully ignores the experiences of women of colour. It looks at womanhood through a beige-coloured, middle-class lens and ignores the many ways that women’s issues specifically affect Black women, and Latina women, and Indigenous women, and any women who aren’t… well, white. Whiteness has always been positioned as the “standard,” and it’s no different when it comes to feminism. This means white women are very often pushed to the forefront of conversations about gendered and sexual violence and workplace harassment, leaving women of colour and their experiences to wither away in the margins.”

The Guardian: How white women use strategic tears to silence women of colour

“That the voices of “women of colour” are getting louder and more influential is a testament less to the accommodations made by the dominant white culture and more to their own grit in a society that implicitly – and sometimes explicitly – wants them to fail.

At the Sydney writers’ festival on Sunday, editor of Djed Press, Hella Ibrahim, relayed the final minutes of a panel on diversity featuring writers from the western Sydney Sweatshop collective. One of the panellists, Winnie Dunn, in answering a question about the harm caused by good intentions, had used the words “white people” and “shit” in the same sentence. This raised the ire of a self-identified white woman in the audience who interrogated the panellists as to “what they think they have to gain” by insulting people who “want to read their stories.”

In other words, the woman saw a personal attack where there wasn’t one and decided to remind the panellists that as a member of the white majority she ultimately has their fate in her hands.

“I walked out of that panel frustrated,” Ibrahim wrote. “Because yet again, a good convo was derailed, white people centred themselves, and a POC panel was told to police it’s [sic] tone to make their message palatable to a white audience.”

Trauma assails brown and black women from all directions. There is the initial pain of being subjected to gendered racism and discrimination, there is the additional distress of not being believed or supported, and of having your words and your bravery seemingly credited to others.

And then there is a type of trauma inflicted on women of colour that many of us find among the hardest to disclose, the one that few seem willing to admit really happens because it is so thoroughly normalised most people refuse to see it.

It is what that writers’ festival audience member was demonstrating, and what blogger and author Luvvie Ajayi called the “weary weaponising of white women’s tears”.

To put it less poetically, it is the trauma caused by the tactic many white women employ to muster sympathy and avoid accountability, by turning the tables and accusing their accuser.

Almost every BW (black woman) I know has a story about a time in a professional setting in which she attempted to have a talk with a WW about her behavior & it has ended with the WW (white woman) crying,” one black woman wrote on Twitter. “The WW wasn’t crying because she felt sorry and was deeply remorseful. The WW was crying because she felt “bullied” and/or that the BW was being too harsh with her.”

When I shared these tweets on my Facebook page asking brown and black women if this had ever happened to them, I was taken by how deeply this resonated, prompting one Arab woman to share this story:

A WW kept touching my hair. Pulling my curls to watch them bounce back. Rubbing the top. Smelling it. So when I told her to stop and complained to HR and my supervisor, she complained that I wasn’t a people person or team member and I had to leave that position for being ‘threatening’ to a coworker.”

For the doubters, here is a mild version of this sleight-of-hand in action:

Notice it is the white woman – Jeanne Beker – who first interrupts the black woman – Jully Black – who takes the interruption in her stride. Black continues to speak passionately and confidently, which Beker interprets as a personal attack on her even though Black is clearly talking in general terms (just as Winnie Dunn was). Beker then attempts to shut Black down by essentially branding her a bully.

Had Jully Black not stopped and repeated Jeanne Beker’s words back at her – “Why are you attacking me?” – they would have passed largely unnoticed, just another woman of colour smeared as an aggressor for daring to continue speaking when a white woman wanted her to stop.

It doesn’t usually end this way. “White women tears are especially potent … because they are attached to the symbol of femininity,” Ajayi explains. “These tears are pouring out from the eyes of the one chosen to be the prototype of womanhood; the woman who has been painted as helpless against the whims of the world. The one who gets the most protection in a world that does a shitty job overall of cherishing women.”

As I look back over my adult life a pattern emerges. Often, when I have attempted to speak to or confront a white woman about something she has said or done that has impacted me adversely, I am met with tearful denials and indignant accusations that I am hurting her. My confidence diminished and second-guessing myself, I either flare up in frustration at not being heard (which only seems to prove her point) or I back down immediately, apologising and consoling the very person causing me harm.

It is not weakness or guilt that compels me to capitulate. Rather, as I recently wrote, it is the manufactured reputation Arabs have for being threatening and aggressive that follows us everywhere. In a society that routinely places imaginary “wide-eyed, angry and Middle Eastern” people at the scenes of violent crimes they did not commit, having a legitimate grievance is no match for the strategic tears of a white damsel in distress whose innocence is taken for granted.

“We talk about toxic masculinity,” Ajayi warns, “but there is (also) toxicity in wielding femininity in this way.” Brown and black women know we are, as musician Miss Blanks writes, “imperfect victims”. That doesn’t mean we are always in the right but it does mean we know that against a white woman’s accusations, our perspectives will almost always go unheard either way.

Whether angry or calm, shouting or pleading, we are still perceived as the aggressors.

Likewise, white women are equally aware their race privileges them as surely as ours condemns us. In this context, their tearful displays are a form of emotional and psychological violence that reinforce the very system of white dominance that many white women claim to oppose.”

Vox: The Alabama election shows exactly why feminism in 2018 can’t just be about white women

“Today’s feminist movement cannot ignore women of color — not because women of color are needed to support causes championed by white women, but because women of color have often been the ones on the front lines, championing feminist causes when white women won’t. Black women are the ones who voted overwhelmingly to defeat Roy Moore. They also voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016, with just 3 percent casting a vote for Trump.

Women of color are already leading activism on issues ranging from reproductive justice to pay equality, but they haven’t always been recognized as leaders by white feminists or mainstream feminist groups. In a recent example, Zahara Hill noted at Ebony that initial coverage of the #MeToo hashtag failed to credit Burke, and that in the social media conversation around the hashtag, “Black women were quickly isolated from the dialogue before we could familiarize ourselves with it.” Exclusions like that can’t happen if feminism is to be relevant as a political force in 2018.”

“A year ago, they stormed the streets of big cities and small towns to make their views known: Women’s rights are human rights. Many wore on their heads what became the de-facto symbol of feminism in 2017, the pink pussyhat.

The Women’s March is back in 2018 with its Power to the Polls anniversary protests on the weekend of Jan. 20-21. The focus during this Women’s March reboot is to register more women to vote, and to elect women and progressive candidates to public office.  But this time when marchers take to the streets in cities from Lansing to Las Vegas, there could be fewer pink pussyhats in the crowds.

The reason: The sentiment that the pink pussyhat excludes and is offensive to transgender women and gender nonbinary people who don’t have typical female genitalia and to women of color because their genitals are more likely to be brown than pink. “I personally won’t wear one because if it hurts even a few people’s feelings, then I don’t feel like it’s unifying,” said Phoebe Hopps, founder and president of Women’s March Michigan and organizer of anniversary marches Jan. 21 in Lansing and Marquette…

 …The Women’s March chapter in Pensacola, Fla., posted to its Facebook page that it is discouraging marchers from wearing the hats to this year’s event.

“The Pink P*ssy Hat reinforces the notion that woman = vagina and vagina = woman, and both of these are incorrect. Additionally, the Pink P*ssy Hat is white-focused and Eurocentric in that it assumes that all vaginas are pink; this is also an incorrect assertion,” it posted to its Facebook page. The post has been shared more than 1,200 times.

“The Pensacola Women’s March organizers understand that this idea was a knee-jerk reaction to the heinous, sexist, misogynistic Trump administration, but it is also just that: a knee-jerk reaction, not fully thought out. Therefore, we ask that march goers refrain from wearing this hat and instead, pick an alternative headwear that focuses on collective women’s liberation for ALL women: transgender women, multinational women, disabled women, queer women — the most marginalized. It is only through the centering and leadership of these groups that women will be liberated — not through exclusionary white feminism, which the Pink P*ssy Hat is indicative of.”

Wmagazine: Emma Watson Addresses Her White Privilege and ‘White Feminism’ in Letter to Her Book Club

“In the letter, which introduces the club’s first read of 2018, Reni Eddo-Lodge ‘s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, she (Emma Watson) addresses her white privilege and “white feminism,” writing, “When I gave my UN speech in 2015, so much of what I said was about the idea that “being a feminist is simple!” Easy! No problem! I have since learned that being a feminist is more than a single choice or decision. It’s an interrogation of self. Every time I think I’ve peeled all the layers, there’s another layer to peel. But, I also understand that the most difficult journeys are often the most worthwhile. And that this process cannot be done at anyone else’s pace or speed. When I heard myself being called a ‘white feminist’ I didn’t understand (I suppose I proved their case in point). What was the need to define me — or anyone else for that matter — as a feminist by race? What did this mean? Was I being called racist? Was the feminist movement more fractured than I had understood? I began…panicking.”

Watson used that moment as a learning opportunity, she says. “It would have been more useful to spend the time asking myself questions like: What are the ways I have benefited from being white? In what ways do I support and uphold a system that is structurally racist? How do my race, class and gender affect my perspective? There seemed to be many types of feminists and feminism. But instead of seeing these differences as divisive, I could have asked whether defining them was actually empowering and bringing about better understanding. But I didn’t know to ask these questions.””

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Everyday Feminism: 4 Racist Stereotypes White Patriarchy Invented to ‘Protect’ White Womanhood

Under patriarchy, women and gender non-conforming folks are systemically oppressed. But because of the intersections of race, class, dis/ability, sexual orientation, and other identities, not all women and gender non-conforming folks experience oppression in the same ways.  For example, while all women are objectified under patriarchy, the concept of white womanhood has a very different connotation than Black womanhood does.

In her book The Fair Sex: White Women and Racial Patriarchy in the Early American Republic, Pauline Schloesser traces some historical ideas about white womanhood. She explains that the idea of “the fair sex” directly tied white womanhood to domesticity and sexual purity.

These ideas emerge even more in the nineteenth century with the myth of the “Cult of True Womanhood.” “True Women” – which were limited to white, mainly upper class women – were expected to uphold the four virtues of piety, purity, submission, and domesticity. These “virtues” were directly tied to white women’s sexuality and ability to reproduce.

Dora Apel goes into this more in Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob. She says, “White women where thus considered naturally superior because of the purity of their whiteness… [They are] assigned a single, undivided nature; she is a vessel for reproduction who remains somehow untouched by sexual drives.”

Because white women’s value was directly tied to their purity, it became the duty of white men to make sure they were pristine. White women were seen as objects whose only duty is was to continue the white race.

This myth was especially antiblack, and was used to demonize white woman/black man relationships in the 1900s. In Race Mixing: Black-White Marriage in Postwar America, Renee Romano talks about how this idea supported anti-miscegenation laws and fear of interracial relationships. She explains, “Whiteness was easily corruptible and blackness was all-consuming… The survival of the white race depended upon its women, who were designated as the guardians of white racial purity.”

These myths of “pure” white womanhood are obviously extremely harmful for white women. It creates a misogynistic where white women have very little agency, particularly sexually. However, this myth also negatively – and deeply – affects Men of Color.

Men of Color, especially Black men, have historically been coded as animalistic abusers and rapists when it comes to white women. This stems from the idea that Men of Color literally want to steal and sully the belongings of white men. In turn, it becomes the “duty” of white men to protect white women – not because they truly care about white women, but because white women are the property of white men.

A number of racist, cissexist stereotypes about Men of Color have emerged in contrast to “protecting” and “defending” white womanhood. These stereotypes, which are racialized and gendered biases against Men of Color, have led to emotional, mental, and physical violence.

As Sally Kitch explains in her book The Specter of Sex: Gendered Foundations of Racial Formation in the United States, “[V]iolence against men of color usually entailed explicit or implicit suspicious of sexual aggression, perversion, or intention; and implications that all competition between men of color and white men – over land or horses or sex – somehow threatened white manhood and white women’s virtue.”

Although the idea of white women needing “protecting” might sound old-fashioned, these ideas haven’t been left in the past. While all of these stereotypes have historical starting points that are very important, these ideas have continued on in the present. These stereotypes about Men of Color are ever growing and have continued a vicious cycle: Men of Color have literally been killed for white women.

I want to make it clear that this is not about playing “Oppression Olympics.”  I’m not saying that Men of Color necessarily suffer more than white women under patriarchy. This also isn’t to say that Men of Color don’t rape or assault women.  This is about creating a more nuanced understanding of how oppression is very much horizontal.

We know that patriarchy creates a system of toxic masculinity that negatively affects people of all genders, and is an extremely harmful system for boys and menBut when we look at how patriarchy creates a system of privilege and oppression, it can also be very easy to say, “all men benefit from patriarchy, and everyone else suffers under it.” Often, we don’t make nuanced connections about how one aspect of it can affect two seemingly very different communities.

While white women really have no say under patriarchy, it’s also important for us all to recognize how we can both be marginalized by a system and be complicit in it. White men haven’t been the only ones who perpetuate these stereotypes and harm Men of Color.

Historically, white women have been both proactive and apathetic to the violence that Men of Color face in their name. I know that I have personally heard a wealth of stories about white women crossing the street, clutching their purses, and locking their car doors when a Black or Brown man passes by.

We all need to confront these stereotypes because they cause harm on multiple levels. It’s not only about giving examples, but also understanding how these show up in our everyday lives. Men of Color like my brother deserve so much more than to be reduced to these myths. They deserve so much more than to look at themselves though these violent lenses.

Just a few of the stereotypes perpetuated to “protect” white womanhood are below:

1. The ‘Black Brute’

One of the most long-lasting stereotypes that’s been used to harm Black men is the myth of the “Black Brute.”

Most of the earliest references to this stereotype were created during the late 1800s. In Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880 – 1917, Gail Bederman explains that this stereotype was used to categorize Black men as inherently violent, uninhibited, and hypersexual. This stereotype, which is very similar to the Black Jezebel trope, was used to dehumanize Black men.

The “Black Brute” stereotype was mainly used as an explanation for why Black people needed to be kept enslaved – namely through perpetuating the idea that that Black men uncontrollably preyed on white women. White men saw themselves as the main line of defense to protect white womanhood and societal power.

As bell hooks explains in We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity, “[T]he black male body continues to be perceived as an embodiment of bestial, violent, penis-as-weapon, hypermasculine assertion.”

During Reconstruction and Integration, this stereotype became even more widespread: The myth of the “Black Brute” was often used as a catalyst for lynching and killing Black men throughout the United States.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s work, especially The Red Record, highlights that this stereotype was used to perpetuate mass killings. Emmett Till – a young Black boy who allegedly whistled at a white woman and then was savagely beaten and killed – is one of the most famous examples of this common occurrence.

Unfortunately, the stereotype of the “Black Brute” persists today in the media and in everyday occurrences. And this stereotype has also contributed to physical violence as well.

It was just one year ago that nine Black people were shot and murdered in a Charleston church. The killer explicitly stated that he killed them because “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.”

Although this stereotype is over 100 years old, it is still being used today to defend white womanhood. Black men are still seen as animalistic things that are incapable of anything but violence – and thus need to be killed because of it.

2. The ‘Yellow Peril’

Today, East Asian men are mainly stereotyped as effeminate, thus supposedly making them terrible sexual and romantic partners. While this stereotype has a long history in the United States, it’s not the only sexual stereotype that’s been used against East Asian men.

The stereotype of “Yellow Peril” emerged in two different time periods.  First, it was used against mainly Chinese men in the 1800s. It was used again mainly against Japanese folks during World War II.

During these times, East Asian men were coded as predatory foreigners whose main goals were to colonize Western Europe and the United States. And part of this fear of colonization included threats to white womanhood. White patriarchy perpetuated the idea that East Asian men would systematically rape and kill white women if they had a chance.

The “Yellow Peril” stereotype relied on the idea that East Asian sexuality was inherently violent. East Asian men were stereotyped as cunning men with insatiable desires. In Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, Helen Zia quotes 1800s orator Horace Greely, who summed up these stereotypes by saying,  “The Chinese are uncivilized, unclean, and filthy… lustful and sensual in their dispositions.”

Propaganda was widespread to perpetuate these stereotypes. Chinese men were portrayed as men who strategically stole white men’s jobs and tricked white women; Japanese men were portrayed as warmongers and rapists.

One major example was the widespread tabloid articles in the late 1800s. They suggested that Chinese men were using opium to seduce and rape white women at alarming rates: Newspapers like The Hearst were “periodically frantic about an oncoming ‘Yellow Peril,’ with the Tong Wars in Chinatown as proof that Chinese were bloodthirsty, sneaky, and… lustful for white women.”

Another example is the actor Sessue Hayakwawa, a famous Japanese-American actor from the 1900s. Sessue was often fetishized and acted in roles where his sexuality was a threat to white female characters. His characters were often the epitome of the “Yellow Peril.”

This is important because as one of the only East Asian stars at the time, this was the kind of representation mainstream America had of East Asians. They perpetuated idea that East Asian men were all villainous and predatory. This urged on the violent stereotypes that white women needed protection from East Asian men.

3. The ‘Muslim Predator’

In the media, Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) people are often categorized as Muslim and Arab, whether or not folks claim either or both of those identities. MENA folks are homogenized, racialized, and treated interchangeably with no regard to the different peoples, cultures, and languages of these two regions.

In Race and Arab Americans Before and After 9/11: From Invisible Citizens to Visible Subjects, Nadine Naber explains that the media has “increasingly portrayed persons associated with the category ‘Arab/Middle Eastern/Muslim’ as not only culturally backward, uncivilized, exotic, or potentially dangerous, but also as potential enemies of the U.S.”

A recurring stereotype that is often used against Middle Eastern and North African men is the idea of the “Muslim Predator.” This stereotype claims that Muslim men want to destroy Western civilization, and that in their quest to do so, they will rape and kidnap white women.

The trope of the “Muslim Predator” can be found in many different media time periods, but was especially prominent in the early 1900s and again in the 1980s, due to colonization and war.

Lauren Michalak explains, “These 1920s films about the Middle East fall into two main groups. Most are exotic adventure melodramas set in the desert. In these, Arabs are associated with violence and sexuality – abducting white women or sweeping in hordes out of the desert to attack the Foreign Legion outpost.”

Because of white patriarchy, there is a fear that MENA men will take over the Western world and treat white women just as “savagely” as they treat MENA women. Regardless of the level of misogynistic violence happening in the United States, Non-Western people are categorized as uncivilized and dangerously sexist. MENA women need to be “saved.”

It’s not that white men particularly care about MENA women, it’s that they are scared that these MENA men will treat white women – the property of white men – just as violently.

Since September 11th, there has been an increase of this stereotype used in the news. Many conservative sources, for example, suggest that MENA refugees shouldn’t be allowed to enter the United States or European countries. These men are treated not only as potential terrorists, but also as rapists.

Again, we have a stereotype that is specifically racialized to cause violence. In this case, white women are used as the excuse to not only physically harm folks, but to create discriminatory laws.

4. The ‘Hispanic Criminal’

The stereotype of the “Hispanic Criminal” isn’t something that Donald Trump just made up, although it has certainly gained popularity due to him.

The idea that Latinos – specifically Mexican, Central, and South American men – are criminals and rapists has been perpetuated for a long time.

A major sexual stereotype about Latinos is that they’re suave lovers who can seduce anyone, especially white women. Another aspect of this stereotype is that Latinos specifically target white women in order to corrupt them. The trope goes that Latino criminals, usually drug dealers, kill white men and steal their women and money.

An important historical moment in the perpetuation of this stereotype emerged when weed was made illegal. During the 1930s, the Drug Enforcement Administration began to use racist propaganda. They said that most weed users were Black and Chicano men who would rape and murder their white neighbors.

Unfortunately, with growing rates of racism and xenophobia, this stereotype has only gained traction, even amongst “liberal” white women such as Amy Schumer. Media isn’t consumed in a vacuum. Racist jokes aren’t just tasteless; they perpetuate harmful ideas. Perpetuating violent stereotypes, even as jokes, simply normalizes them.

It not only makes it seem okay for everyone to “joke around” about racialized rape, but it also makes it difficult to have real, intra-community conversations about sexual assault.

When violent stereotypes are perpetuated about a community, these are the only characteristics attributed to folks. That makes it very easy to have a gut-reaction of “that never happens!” in order to dispel these stereotypes. When that happens, it can be very impossible for survivors of assault to speak their truth.

These stereotypes not only perpetuate violence against Latinos, but against all Latinxs.

***

These stereotypes are important to reflect on because intersectionality is important!

These stereotypes have not only been used in the past to perpetuate violence against Men of Color. They’re ever-present factors in how Black and Brown men navigate the world. The violence they face and their fears are very real.

It’s just like Audre Lorde said in Sister Outsider: “Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying.”

This is so important because it’s vital for us all to reflect on the ways that a system can oppress us, use us against others, and give us power.

It’s not only white men who perpetuate these stereotypes. These are ideas that we all internalize. My brother, and other Men of Color, shouldn’t have to make themselves smaller to “protect” you or themselves.

If you are a white woman, you need to analyze your complacency and your active participation in the violence done to Men of Color. This isn’t about guilt or placing blame. It’s about working in a nuanced way to dismantle an oppressive system that negatively affects us all.

Misogynoir

What “Misogynoir” Means . . . and Why It Has to End

Everyday Feminism: 4 Tired Tropes That Perfectly Explain What Misogynoir Is – And How You Can Stop It

“Misogynoir – a portmanteau that combines “misogyny” and the French word for black, “noir” – is a term coined by the queer Black feminist Moya Bailey to describe the particular racialized sexism that Black women face.

It’s a word used to acknowledge the very specific convergence of anti-Blackness and misogyny, and therefore is not applicable to non-Black women of color (or white women).

And it’s often overlooked in feminist discourse – because it disrupts the tendency that mainstream feminism has of universalizing womanhood as a uniformly shared experience based on the default narrative of white women.

Insisting that conversations around misogyny disregard race or take a “colorblind” approach are misguided and wrong-footed. Because only by accurately naming the nuances of oppressive behavior can we understand their origins and equip ourselves with the tools to bring them down.

That’s why discussing, recognizing, and understanding misogynoir is crucial to an effective and compassionate feminism.

So let’s start by understanding the following four tropes, pervasively woven into popular media, which contribute to making society a more hostile place for Black women.

1. The Sassy Black Woman

The Sassy Black Woman is a common stereotype that portrays us as one-dimensional sasspots who click our fingers and roll our necks and shout “Mmhmm!” at any given moment. And while this may seem innocent (it’s just a joke, right?), the trope exists purely to demonstrate the supposed inherent comedy in female Blackness.

In and of itself, the SBW seems harmless enough, but this kind of lazy portrayal of Black women is not only insulting but contributes to a harmful cultural narrative which diminishes our multifacetedness. It insinuates that we’re not much more than a few well-placed “Right on, sistahs” and “Oh no she didn’ts.” It relegates us to vacuous, predictable fluff. There is no complexity permitted to us – no humanity.

It’s that much easier to pass us over as prospective dates or for housing when you don’t see us as being on your emotional level. The SBW trope leads to people thinking they can just snap their fingers and roll their necks – and suddenly they “get” what it’s like to be a Black woman, or that they can “bond” with us by parroting this parody of ourselves back at us. Newsflash: You don’t, and you can’t.

When the white man I discussed at the start of this article clicked his fingers all up in my face, he made it very clear that he wasn’t seeing me as a person in my own right, but as a mirror for his own limited understanding of Black women’s nuance.

The SBW stereotype dehumanizes us by presenting us as cardboard cut-outs with no depth of feeling or emotion. It’s sickening and so pervasive that it’s contributing to a world in which white people literally cannot empathize with or recognize the pain of black people – because they’re so insidiously used to thinking of us in such simplistic and less than human terms.

White people need to accept the fact that we are not an endless ream of hilarity for them to giggle and gawp at. We are grown-ass women with every emotion under the sun, and we deserve to be seen as such.

2. The Hypersexual Jezebel

A common misogynoiristic stereotype of Black women is that we are inherently, permanently sexual, promiscuous Jezebels (named as such after a sinful Biblical queen).

White men often talk of their desire to fuck us because they’ve heard that we’re “freaky” and “up for anything” in bed – as if Black female sexuality is a monolith. I remember a white guy hitting on me at a club and him refusing to believe that I was turning him down.

“I know you want it, girls like you always do,” he sneered at me – and it’s not too hard to see what he was insinuating. Bearing in mind that I’d already told him that I was so completely and utterly gay.

The idea that Black women are automatically sluts, whores, and hoes is prevalent (not to mention the sexist belief that women who have sex and are in the sex industry deserve to be judged and shamed). If you Google “black lesbian,” for instance, most of the results on the first page are explicitly sexual. If you just Google “lesbian,” though (which the white supremacy-led algorithm then assumes means “white”), the results are much cleaner.

Misogynoir is clear here: Blackness added to womanhood creates the expectation of rampant sexuality. Black womanhood is painted as the opposite of the “purity” of white womanhood – and many pop stars, such as Lily Allen and Miley Cyrus, have used Black women’s bodies as props to “sex up” their images. Presenting Black women’s bodies as the antithesis of the “innocence” of white womanhood marks Black womanhood as a signifier of guilt.

Our bodies are automatically tainted with an immovable sexual lens. Thus, often it is insinuated that any sexual abuse we face is our fault because, by virtue of being Black women, we were “asking for it.” This is the victim-blaming attitude of rape-culture and it is hurting us most.

While so many white women have found empowerment on Slut Walks for example, the same cannot always be said for the vast majority of Black women. What would it mean to call ourselves sluts when the world already takes that as a given?

Liberation does not look the same across all iterations of womanhood.  This trope robs us of freedom surrounding our approach to sex and sexuality. It silences and shames us.

It breeds toxic ‘respectability politics’, whereby we’re told by folks that if we are ‘good’ and do not engage in any kind of sex that isn’t strictly marital and procreative then we will be safe, and if we don’t dress a certain way we will be safe, and if we don’t date around then we will be safe.

That the only way we can actually achieve safety is if we just don’t leave the g-ddamn house – ignoring that no matter what we do, there will be someone who wants to hurt us and millions more who will find a way to justify that hurt. The hypersexualization stereotype originates from the era of slavery.

In order for white men to justify their rape of enslaved Black women, they spread the idea that Black women were sexually insatiable. In this way, any instances of sexual assault were actually just “giving them what they wanted.” We are relegated to animalistic and primitive by suggesting that we’re unable to exercise self-control, an excuse used to obfuscate the abuse done to us.

Stop using Black women’s bodies as a symbol of sex. Leave us to inhabit ourselves free from the smears of someone else’s sexuality. Learn to see our bodies as neutral, as our own, rather than dragging them down with the weight of your assumptions.

3. The Angry Black Woman

This trope plays on the idea that any discomfort expressed by a Black woman is unreasonable. Because something unreasonable is easily dismissed.

Our anger is seen as something that can be ignored  because it is not portrayed as stemming from a place of true grievance.

The Angry Black Woman stereotype paints us as irrationally mad – and is commonly trotted out to position us as the hysterical opposite to men’s (and especially white men’s) rationality.

The slew of scandalised white feminist think-pieces in the wake of Rihanna’s video for Bitch Better Have My Money reflects the discomfort that society has with the fury of Black women. White society is so used to downplaying female Black anger that the bold, unashamed and seething anger Rihanna displays in BBHMM just about caused mass panic.

Ask yourself why is there such uproar about the fictionalised violence of a Black woman, but a societal wide dearth of interest in tackling the very real violence that Black women face at the hands of white supremacy? Why is Black women’s anger seen as unacceptable but the conditions that create it are left to fester?

I have often been told that I’m “too aggressive” in my activism, especially by white feminists, even when I’m being decidedly placid and reasonable, proving how this trope plays out in real life, even in feminist circles. The prominence of the Angry Black Woman trope means that my actions are read as angry, even when they’re not.

It’s a tactic used in order to belittle our valid anger by portraying it as an inherent character flaw, rather than a justified reaction to circumstances.

4. The Strong Black Woman

The Strong Black Woman is a manifestation of misogynoir that shows up in places like the “Strong Independent Black Woman Who Don’t Need No Man” meme. It’s a cultural narrative that positions Black women as able to withstand any and all emotional difficulty we face without any support.

Annalise Keating from How to Get Away with Murder is a perfect example of this. She is icy, impenetrable, and doesn’t let the trauma she endured in the past and present affect her at all. She (ostensibly) effortlessly take down all obstacles in her path.

Annalise’s character is unerringly steadfast. When she cries, she immediately pulls herself together. When she’s in trouble, she does whatever she needs to do to save the situation, no matter how callous.

And while this may feel like a positive stereotype, as strength is a glorified quality in our society, the Strong Black Woman trope stems from the fact that Black women have been absorbing the brunt of physical and emotional labor for not only their families, but also for the white families they were owned or employed by for centuries.

It’s been preferable for people to see us as able to deal with anything and everything, because then we can be treated in deplorable ways.  This stereotype bars Black women from feeling as though they can healthily and wholly work through their issues. Instead, we must force them down and carry on in order to maintain a staunch and steadfast facade.

This trope also contributes to many Black women’s unwillingness to seek help for mental health issues and for us to be less likely believed when we do try and get help or discuss it.

***

Black womanhood is routinely and systematically devalued and dismissed in ways that white womanhood isn’t. And the above are just a few of the ways in which misogynoir shows itself in society.

The experience of existing at the intersection of Black and woman is a position that entails oppression from a variety of angles – and we have to be better at recognizing it, naming it, and calling it out for what it is.

The fight for women’s liberation must explicitly focus on eradicating racialized sexism if it’s ever to be effective and freeing for more than the privileged few.

Philogynoir: Misogynoir | What is it?

Personal

“What we need to do most of all is stop making it all about us. When we cry out that we’re not like those other bad white feminists, we are making it about us. When we ask women of color to take the time to sit down and educate us on the specific issues that they face and how we can be better allies, rather than doing the research ourselves by reading blogs and articles and books by women of color, we are making it about us. When we ask why women of color need to be so divisive and whine that we’re all in this together, we are making it about us. When we decide to swoop in and play the hero without asking what type of help is, in fact, needed, we are still making it about us.” Anne TheriaultHuffPost

Interpersonal

“…the White savior: a person of privilege picks a cause they know little to nothing about and insists on solutions that inevitably cause more harm than good. As Flaherty (Jordan Flaherty, No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality) explains, the savior mentality cannot exist without turning people into objects who need rescuing……activist men who come to command without listening to those they’re ostensibly helping—and dismiss marginalized people who critique their methods—produce a kind of devastation that makes the project of systemic oppression that much easier.” Aura Bogado – Yes Magazine

Neo-Colonial

“If Americans want to care about Africa, maybe they should consider evaluating American foreign policy, which they already play a direct role in through elections, before they impose themselves on Africa itself…Under that same banner, the livelihood of corn farmers in Mexico has been destroyed by NAFTA. Haitian rice farmers have suffered appalling losses due to Haiti being flooded with subsidized American rice. A nightmare has been playing out in Honduras in the past three years: an American-backed coup and American militarization of that country have contributed to a conflict in which hundreds of activists and journalists have already been murdered…This is a litany that will be familiar to some. To others, it will be news. But, familiar or not, it has a bearing on our notions of innocence and our right to “help.” Let us begin our activism right here: with the money-driven villainy at the heart of American foreign policy. “Teju Cole – The Atlantic

Misogynoir | Personal Experiences

Bitch Media:  White Women Must Hold Each Other Accountable For Racism

We know that 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump. We know that some white women are so blinded by their privilege, their racism, and a patriarchal system that insists their lives as wives and mothers are “precious” that they happily carry water for the white men in hoods and iron crosses. We know that some white women march right alongside them in neo-Nazi rallies, drop racial slurs on social media, and push racist legislation in Congress. And we know this has been going on for a long, long time—well before Trump’s Klansman father was born. However, viewing white women’s involvement in perpetuating white supremacy solely through their relationships with men not only denies their agency, but assuages their culpability. As the old saying goes, men talk, women do.

Historian Elizabeth Gillespie McRae’s new book, Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy, is a fascinating, meticulously researched, and damning look into the myriad ways white women have consciously worked to aid racial segregation in the Jim Crow South and sanctify their racially pure vision of white motherhood. The book focuses on four women—Florence Sillers Ogden, Mary Dawson Cain, Cornelia Dabney Tucker, and Nell Battle Lewis—across multiple generations of white-supremacist activism; it takes us from Deep South racism in the “progressive” 1920s to the mob of screaming white mothers who greeted Black schoolgirl Ruby Bridges in 1960 New Orleans through the Boston school busing controversy of the mid ’70s.

For decades, these four women and others performed “myriad duties that upheld white over Black: censoring textbooks, denying marriage certificates, deciding on the racial identity of their neighbors, celebrating school choice, canvassing communities for votes, and lobbying elected officials.” They taught their children that racial hierarchies were not only scientific and just, but actually God’s will; that Black people preferred segregation; Black boys were unintelligent and sexually overdeveloped; Black men were dangerous; and falling in love, marrying, or having children with Black men was the most horrific thing a white girl could do and would hasten the extinction of the white race. (The alt-right “white genocide” meme is nothing new). They formed political action committees, penned newspaper columns, passed out pamphlets, rallied for white-supremacist politicians, and leaned on their maternal image to manipulate the discourse.

Elizabeth Eckford integrating a school in Little Rock, Arkansas

Elizabeth Eckford integrating a school in Little Rock, Arkansas (Photo credit: National Park Service)

After 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling destroyed the fictional idea that white people were the most responsible shepherds of racial justice and Black Americans were happy under segregation, these women pivoted to a family-focused political ideology that painted the Supreme Court decision as federal overreach that threatened mothers’ authority over their own children. This tactic attracted more moderate and liberal types to their cause, and effectively feminized mass resistance (a term used for the package of laws passed in 1956 that aimed to uphold Jim Crow and delay school integration). For white-supremacist women, the home and the school were their battlegrounds, and their most sacred duty as mothers was to keep them free of Black influence. According to McRae, without their efforts, “white supremacist politics could not have shaped local, regional, and national politics the way it did or lasted as long as it has.”

One of the more intriguing political tidbits from the book is the way white-supremacist politics criss-crossed party lines, with its proponents hopscotching between Democrat, Republican, Jeffersonian Democrat, New Right, and the catchall “conservative” tag. To simplify a complex development, following decades of pushing white supremacist policies, the Democratic Party’s growing acceptance of desegregation and racial equality inspired a mass exodus of white Southern women, and led them to seek representation elsewhere. McRae is careful, however, to illustrate that white-supremacist politics were not confined to the South; in cities like Milwaukee, Detroit, and Boston, white supremacy manifested under the cover of dog whistles and obfuscation, where parents weren’t racist for not wanting their white kids to share classrooms with Black students, they were just “concerned about school choice.”

The parallels between the past and our current state are stark, and often unsettling. Everything old is new again, just repackaged and refurbished to suit a new audience. We can find echoes of newspaper owner, columnist, and constitutional fanatic Mary Dawson Cain in the rise of both conservative pundits like Tomi Lahren and white supremacy mouthpieces Lauren Southern and Brittany Pettibone, all of whom espouse “traditional” viewpoints that range from casually racist to virulently white supremacist. Nell Battle Lewis—with her liberal education, outraged editorializing, and patronizing “color-blind” view of her Black acquaintances—is the spiritual foremother to today’s “woke” white feminists, who “don’t see color” and sport vagina hats with pride, but balk at any sort of intersectional analysis of feminism, privilege, or power.

Ku Klux parade on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. in 1928

Ku Klux parade on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. in 1928 (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

We see the ideological granddaughters of Cornelia Dabney Tucker—who organized the sending of countless handwritten letters decrying the Brown v. Board of Education ruling—in the white women who now send panicked tweets about Black Lives Matter. Elsewhere, Florence Sillers Ogden’s efforts to brand the labor movement as “un-American” and blame outbreaks of racist violence on First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s willingness to freely socialize with people of color would fit right in on any race-baiting FOX News segment. Roosevelt was a target of ire for white segregationist women—her progressive politics and commitment to racial equality rendered her little more than a communist witch in their estimation; one can’t help but think of the way Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton—herself a polarizing, deeply flawed, yet (comparatively) progressive political powerhouse—was treated during her presidential run, and how much of the white female electorate turned on her in the end.

As I read their stories, I saw my mother’s face. The same cold, quiet cruelty that emanates from the photos in Mothers of Massive Resistance stared back at me 15 years ago, when she told me that my boyfriend Aaron* wasn’t allowed to come to our house for junior-prom pictures. He was a skater kid from a nice family who lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood my family could have never dreamed of affording or fitting into—but since he had locs and dark skin, she forbid me from seeing him again. I remember how she told me, in what she must have imagined to be a comforting tone, “He’s a nice kid, but it just ain’t right.”

The lessons I learned about whiteness, class, and the lengths that white folks will go to protect their ideas have been a foundational part of my political development, and are why I felt it was important to engage with this book and the uncomfortable history it reveals. The task of dismantling white supremacy rests on the shoulders of those who benefit most from it. It’s on us to confront racist, white supremacist white people who assume they can count on us to smile along or stay silent when they step out of line; it’s on us to ditch that poisonous “color-blind” worldview and understand the ways in which race, identity, and political/social power intersect; it’s on us to publicly, materially, enthusiastically, and genuinely support people of color, to confront and interrogate our own internalized racism and learned prejudices without expecting people of color to educate us.Jane Snyder at a Ku Klux Klan service in 1925

Jane Snyder at a Ku Klux Klan service in 1925 (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

It’s on us to protest side by side with people of color against this racist, fascist, xenophobic regime. When the cops show up, it’s on us to recognize that no matter our specific identities, they will see us above all as white women, and this affords us a vast measure of safety and privilege. We must understand that it is up to us to put our bodies on the front lines to provide cover for those who are under greater threat. It’s on us to do that work, to shut up and listen, to make space for marginalized voices and recognize when we’re veering into performative, self-serving, or otherwise hollow allyship.

The entirety of that 53 percent of white women didn’t vote for Trump because of “economic anxiety;” some of them were voting to uphold an ancient, bloody order, and those sins cannot be forgiven. We need to educate ourselves, and perhaps even more importantly, to educate our children. Mothers of Massive Resistance shows how effective white women’s historical efforts to influence the school curriculum in favor of their own views have been; we’ve done it before, and now we must do it again to ensure that the next generations grow up learning about the uncomfortable, violent, imperialist history of this nation. There have always been moderate, liberal, and radical white women who push back against white supremacy, but as the current state of our nation makes clear, we’ve been far less successful than we could be, and that failure has resulted in decades of unfathomable suffering.

McRae’s book shines a harsh light on our status as collaborators and progenitors in the mainstream white-supremacist movement, and is essential reading for any white woman who seeks to understand our history—and our responsibility to those we’ve failed. White male faces dominate the discourse around the way violent white supremacy has spilled into the mainstream, but lest we forget, there were white women in Charlottesville, too—and while many of us marched alongside Heather Heyer, some of them were there to continue the work their foremothers began. We cannot dismantle what we refuse to confront. White women, we have work to do.

The Confront White Womanhood

What is “White Womanhood”?

As white women, we simultaneously hold social and financial power as white people, while suffering under the confines of “womanhood.” In this way we often enact harm while relieving ourselves of responsibility for our actions. We are viewed as objects to be defended (or violated) by our white male protectors. White men’s presumed ownership of “pure” white women does not keep us safe – and it certainly does not free us from patriarchy. It reinforces it. The silencing of women’s history has erased the ways in which we were (and are) active creators of the white supremacist system we live in today. We believe there are four main areas which we participate; Violence, Universalism, Post Racial Optimism, and White Saviorism.

How do white women participate in the oppression of people of color?

  • Violence: “Protecting white women” is used as justification of violence against Men of Color. White women using this fear/protection to cause harm to Men of Color.
  • Universalism: The assumption that white women’s experience of womanhood is the universal experience of womanhood, ignoring the lived realities of Women of Color.
  • Post-Racial Optimism: The habit of ignoring the oppression of People of Color in favor of elevating false narratives of equality
  • White Saviorism: The assumption that a white person can single-handedly “fix” a Community of Color’s problems without following the leadership of that community, often resulting in further damage to the community.

What does it mean to “Confront White Womanhood”?

White women feel our oppression under patriarchy so strongly that we often overlook our participation in the oppression of People of Color. It is time to be accountable for the harm we cause, however unintentional it may be. This means confronting ourselves and our communities in the ways we we support, organize and interact with People of Color.

“The women’s movement can’t fight patriarchy or racism without white women being willing to face their white privilege and to be accountable for the ways they cause harm. The Confront White Womanhood platform does the necessary work of teaching white women to face how they uphold systems of patriarchal white supremacy.”

— Tamika D. Mallory, Civil Rights Activist and Co-President of Women’s March

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Further Reading


White Resentment/Whitelash

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” President Lyndon B. Johnson

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“White Backlash is the hostile reaction of white Americans to the advances of the civil rights movement” Webster

White Resentment/Whitelash

When white people feel victimized and resentful

  • Because they feel they are losing their privileges, supremacy, way of life, etc.
  • As a direct result of people of color gaining more equality or this country becoming more multicultural and more desegregated

White Resentment Narratives

  • Losing their (white) way of life
    • Changing demographics, diversity programs, immigration, desegregation
  • Being discriminated against (Reverse racism)
    • Affirmative action, racial scholarship myth
  • Zero sum gain
    • The assumption that minorities’ success (political, social, economic)
      • is at the cost of white people’s success
  • Under attack/losing their power
    • Black president, PC movement, identity politics, “un-white washing” history
    • Current White Supremacy rallies chants:
      • “You will not replace us”, “Protect our way of life”, 14 words “We must secure the existence of our people & a future for white children”
  • False beliefs and narratives
      • Criminalization of black people, immigrants, civil rights activists, etc
      • People of color and immigrants take more than they give
      • History of welfare
  • Dog whistles
    • Coded “race neutral” messages/policies against civil rights and de-segregation
      • Examples: “Law and Order”, “Cutting Taxes”, “Illegals”
    • Southern Strategy, Tea Party, GOP, Trump

Examples of White Resentment throughout History

  • Reactions to the end of slavery and Radical Reconstruction
    • White terrorism, lynching, pogroms, black codes, voter suppression, Jim Crow
  • Massacres of successful or politically active black communities
    • New Orleans Massacre (1866), Camilla Massacre (1868), Colfax massacre (1873), Massacre at Hamburg (1876) Springfield race riot (1908), East St. Louis massacres (1917), Dozens of cities during the Red Summer of (1919)) – Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street,” (1921), Rosewood, Florida (1923), many more
  • Reaction to equality efforts such as desegregation and civil rights legislation
    • White political supremacy, police brutality, voter suppression, lynching, terrorism, re-segregation
    • Southern Strategy, Lost Cause of the Confederacy
  • Attempts to make welfare more accessible for people of color
    • White backlash against welfare, welfare queen stereotypes, budget cuts, block grants
  • Reactions to Affirmative action, political correctness, identity politics, multiculturalism
    • Reverse racism myths, Increase in White supremacist/nativists groups, rise of Political Right, dog-whistles
  • 1960s civil rights movement, civil unrest and urban uprising

    • Nixon, Law and Order dog whistles, War on Drugs, Reagan, Rise of Religious Right
  • 8 Years of a black president
    • Tea party, birthers, fake news, Trump
  • 9/11 and influx of immigrants fleeing violence US supported in Latin America
    • Scapegoating and stereotyping immigrants and Muslims
  • Current social justice efforts
    • White supremacist rallies, alt-right, trolls, doxing, police brutality

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“White rage is not about visible violence, but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. It wreaks havoc subtly, almost imperceptibly. Too imperceptibly, certainly, for a nation consistently drawn to the spectacular–to what it can see. It’s not the Klan. White rage doesn’t have to wear sheets, burn crosses, or take to the streets. Working the halls of power, it can achieve its ends far more effectively, far more destructively. In my Washington Post op-ed, therefore, I set out to make white rage visible, to blow graphite onto that hidden fingerprint and trace its historic movements over the past 150 years.

The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem; rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations, and with demands for full and equal citizenship. It is a blackness that refuses to accept subjugation, to give up. A formable array of policy assaults and legal contortions has punished black resilience, black resolve.

And all the while, white rage manages to maintain not on upper hand but also, apparently, the moral high ground. It’s Giuliani chastising black people to fix the problems in their own neighbor hoods instead of always scapegoating the police. It’s the endless narratives about a culture of black poverty that devalues education hard work, family, and ambition. It’s a mantra told so often that some African Americans themselves have come to believe it. Few even think anymore to question the stories, the “studies” of black fathers abandoning their children, of rampant drug use in black neighborhoods, of African American children hating education because school is “acting white”–all of which have been disproved but remain foundational in American lore.10

The truth is that when World War I provided the opportunity in the North for blacks to get jobs with unheard-of pay scales and, better yet, the chance for their children to finally have good schools, African Americans fled the oppressive conditions in the South. White authorities stopped the trains, arresting people whose only crime was leaving the state. They banned a nationally distributed newspaper, jailed people for carrying poetry, and instituted another form of slavery under the ruse of federal law. No the First Amendment, the right to travel, nor even the basis laws of capitalism were any match.

The truth is that opposition to black advancement is not just a Southern phenomenon. In the North, it has been just as intense, just as determined, and in some ways just as destructive. When, during the Great Migration, African Americans moved into the cities, ready to work hard for decent housing and good schools, they were locked down in uninhabitable slums. To try to break out of that squalor with a college degree or in a highly respected profession only intensified the response: Perjured testimony was transmuted into truth; a future Nuremberg judge ran roughshod over state law; and even the bitterest newspaper rivals saw fit to join together when it came to upholding a lie.

The truth is that when the Brown v. Board of Education decision came down in 1954 and black children finally had a chance at a decent education, white authorities didn’t see children striving for quality schools and an opportunity to fully contribute to society; they saw only a threat and acted accordingly, shutting down schools, diverting public money into private coffers, leaving millions of citizens in educational rot, willing even to undermine national security in the midst of a major crisis-all to ensure that blacks did not advance.

The truth is that the hard-fought victories of the Civil Rights Movement caused a reaction that stripped Brown of its power, severed the jugular of the Voting Rights Act, closed off access to higher education, poured crack cocaine into the inner cities, and locked up more black men proportionally than even apartheid-era South Africa.

The truth is that, despite all this, a black man was elected president of the United States: the ultimate advancement, and thus the ultimate affront. Perhaps not surprisingly, voting rights were severely curtailed, the federal government was shut down, and more than once the Office of the President was shockingly, openly, and publicly disrespected by other elected officials. And as the judicial system in state after state turned free those who had decided a neighborhood’s “safety” meant killing first and asking questions later, a very real warning was sent that black lives don’t matter.

The truth is, white rage has undermined democracy, warped the Constitution, weakened the nation’s ability to compete economically, squandered billions of dollars on baseless incarceration, rendered an entire region sick, poor, and woefully undereducated, and left cities nothing less than decimated. All this havoc has been wreaked simply because African Americans wanted to work, get an education, live in decent communities, raise their families, and vote. Because they were unwilling to take no for an answer.

Thus, these seemingly isolated episodes reaching back to the nineteenth century and carrying forward to the twenty-first, once fitted together like pieces in a mosaic, reveal a portrait of a nation: one that is the unspoken truth of our racial divide.” Carol Anderson, White Rage

Democracy Now: Just Like After Reconstruction, Trump Vote Highlights White Backlash to Recent Racial Progress

“Look, every advancement toward equality has come with the spilling of blood. Then, when that’s over, a defensiveness from the group that had been doing the oppressing. There’s always this begrudging sense that black people are being granted something, when it’s white people’s lack of being able to live up to the defining words of the birth of the country that is the problem. There’s a lack of recognition of the difference in our system. Chris Rock used to do a great bit: ‘‘No white person wants to change places with a black person. They don’t even want to exchange places with me, and I’m rich.’’ It’s true. There’s not a white person out there who would want to be treated like even a successful black person in this country. And if we don’t address the why of that treatment, the how is just window dressing. You know, we’re in a bizarre time of quarantine. White people lasted six weeks and then stormed with rifles, shouting: ‘‘Give me liberty! This is causing economic distress! I’m not going to wear a mask, because that’s tyranny!’’ That’s six weeks versus 400 years of quarantining a race of people. The policing is an issue, but it’s the least of it. We use the police as surrogates to quarantine these racial and economic inequalities so that we don’t have to deal with them.” Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart Is Back to Weigh In

Whitelash

“Whitelash is a new word coined by CNN commentator Van Jones to describe, in part, why he felt Americans elected Donald Trump as president. But the term describes an old reality: Dramatic racial progress in America is inevitably followed by a white backlash, or “whitelash.” Reconstruction in the 19th century was followed by a century of Jim Crow. The civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s was followed by President Ronald Reagan and the rise of the religious right.”

CNN: This is what ‘whitelash’ looks like

“A tall, caramel-complexioned man marched across the steps of the U.S. Capitol to be sworn into office as a jubilant crowd watched history being made.

The man was an African-American of mixed-race heritage, an eloquent speaker whose election was hailed as a reminder of how far America had come.

But the man who placed his hand on the Bible that winter day in Washington wasn’t Barack Obama. He was Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate.

His election and that of many other African-Americans to public office triggered a white backlash that helped destroy Reconstruction, America’s first attempt to build an interracial democracy in the wake of the Civil War.

To some historians, Revels’ story offers sobering lessons for our time: that this year’s presidential election is about the past as well as the future. These historians say Obama isn’t a post-racial president but a “post-Reconstructionist” leader. They say his presidency has sparked a white backlash with parallels to a brutal period in U.S. history that began with dramatic racial progress.

Some of the biggest controversies of the 2012 contest could have been ripped from the headlines of that late 19th-century era, they say: Debates erupt over voting rights restrictions and racial preferences, a new federal health care act divides the country, an economic crisis sparks a small government movement. And then there’s a vocal minority accusing a national black political leader of not being a “legitimate” U.S. citizen.

All were major issues during Reconstruction, an attempt to bring the former Confederate states back into the national fold and create a new era of racial justice. And many of the same forces that destroyed Reconstruction may be converging again, some scholars and historians say.

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Hiram Rhodes Revels became the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate in 1870.

Ruha Benjamin points to this as proof that change is fragile — and reversible. The backlash that swept aside Revels lasted nearly a century.

“When white Americans helped put this African-American in the Senate, it seemed that they were really welcoming African-Americans and they wanted them to have full equality,” said Benjamin, an African-American studies professor at Boston University. “We know in hindsight that it was about to get worse.”

The notion that the country is poised to enter a new post-Reconstruction era may seem outlandish, even offensive. That period, known as the Jim Crow era, saw the establishment of American apartheid: segregated public facilities, race riots and white racists murdering blacks and their white allies with impunity.

Today, too many white Americans are “militantly anti-racist” for the country to return to the post-Reconstruction era, said Mark D. Naison, a history professor at Fordham University in New York City.

“You hold a racist demonstration in this country and the anti-racist protesters will have as many whites and blacks in their group, maybe more,” Naison said. “We are definitely not post-racial, but we aren’t going back to the days of legal segregation.”

Yet there is another slice of white America that seems stuck in a time warp, as if it never left the post-Reconstruction era, other historians argue. While not calling for the return of Jim Crow segregation, some white Americans are recycling the same political rhetoric and legal strategies that snuffed out Reconstruction, these historians say.

They are also resurrecting some of the most racist images from the post-Reconstruction era, some black commentators say.

While it is no longer acceptable to call a black person the N-word publicly, people do it all the time in social media, video games and in the comment sections of online news stories, said Nsenga Burton, a writer for The Root, an online news site with an African-American perspective.

Much of this racism is aimed at Obama, she says. Among examples, he’s been called “tar baby” and “the ultimate Affirmative Action N******” and depicted as a chimp. People are not shocked anymore by overt displays of racism, she says.

Burton said in a Root essay entitled, “It’s a Great Time to be a Racist,” that Obama’s presidency didn’t inaugurate a post-racial era. “Try post-Reconstruction,” she said, “because the harmful slurs and images being tossed around the public space hark back more to a racist past than to a racially ambiguous future.”

A recent Associated Press online poll concluded that racial prejudice in America has slightly increased since Obama’s election. The survey said that a majority of Americans, 51%, express explicit racial prejudice toward blacks, compared to 48% in 2008.

While the poll on its own doesn’t prove the country has become more racist in the last four years, it does offer evidence that the “post-racial” world some thought Obama’s inauguration would bring has yet to materialize.

“We’re in a racist renaissance,” Burton said. “It’s a rebirth of the oldest forms of racism. It’s not new, not different. It’s like the 1800s, the most archaic abusive terms are applied to black people every single day.”

Some conservatives have a different take, on history as well as current events. Everyone who criticizes the president is labeled a racist, they say. And describing Obama as a post-Reconstruction president is absurd.

“It’s race-baiting of the highest order; it’s bunk,” said Niger Innis, a black conservative and son of civil rights activist Roy Innis who has defended the Tea Party movement against accusations of racism.

“The America of today is not the America of the 1870s,” Innis said. “When the American people voted for their first black president, the Union Army didn’t occupy the country.”

Some conservative commentators also say Obama isn’t a victim of racism, but to the contrary has inflamed racial divisions to advance his political agenda.

“Obama was falsely portrayed in his campaign as a post-racial president who would bring healing to the nation’s racial divisions,” said Larry Schweikart, co-author of “A Patriot’s History of the United States.”

“Obama has done everything he can to ensure that there were stark racial differences. … Obama has focused his entire administration around racism, a sort of reverse racism on his end,” Schweikart claimed.

It is a view that has been reflected by conservative talk-show hosts such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh’s brother David, author of “The Great Destroyer.” David Limbaugh would not talk to CNN for this story.

Hope and change in another time

Reconstruction, which lasted from the end of the Civil War in 1865 to 1877, was filled with dueling perceptions of race as well. The political changes unleashed by the Civil War unnerved many white Southerners: As blacks achieved positions of power that previously had been reserved for whites, historians say, many whites felt like their country didn’t belong to them anymore.

After the Civil War, the U.S. Congress passed the 13th, 14th and 15th “Reconstruction Amendments” that abolished slavery, granted citizenship rights to blacks and prohibited denying the right to vote to newly freed slaves.

The term “civil rights” was coined during Reconstruction, said Eric Foner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution.” A century before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a segregated bus, Congress passed the 1866 and 1875 Civil Rights Acts, which banned the discrimination of blacks in “public accommodations” such as streetcars and theaters.

The reforms provoked what some historians say was white Southerners’ greatest fear: “Negro Rule.”

During Reconstruction, at least 2,000 blacks were eventually elected to political offices throughout the South. They included congressmen, judges, tax collectors, sheriffs, even a governor, said Philip Dray, author of “Capitol Men,” which examines Reconstruction through the lives of the first black congressmen”

“Expectations were high,” said Dray, who has also written books about the rise of labor unions and lynchings in America. “People felt like there was change, and they were going to be part of it.”

Revels rode that wave of optimism into high office. In 1870, he became the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate when the Mississippi legislature appointed him to fill a vacancy left when the state seceded from the Union.

Opponents initially insisted he wasn’t a legitimate U.S. citizen because the Constitution required a senator be a citizen for at least nine years. He also had an unusual background, having been born to a free black family in North Carolina when slavery was legal.

“He wasn’t radical or over the top,” Dray said of Revels. “He was a minister, a conciliatory figure. The idea was that it would be easier for him to weather the scrutiny.”

Revels himself would anticipate the white backlash that would follow when he told the Senate early in 1871: “I find that the prejudice in this country to color is very great, and I sometimes fear that it is on the increase.”

Obamacare, 19th century style

Beyond Revels, there are other parallels between today and the post-Reconstruction era, according to some historians.

The most commonly cited link revolves around the debate over voter ID laws. Since Obama’s election, 34 states have considered adopting legislation requiring photo ID for voters, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Seven have passed such laws, which typically require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls.

During the post-Reconstruction era, many white Southerners viewed the onset of black voting power in apocalyptic terms. They created a thicket of voting barriers — “poll taxes,” “literacy tests” and “understanding clauses” — to prevent blacks from voting, said Dray.

“The idea was to invalidate the black vote without directly challenging the 15th Amendment,” Dray said.

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This political cartoon highlighting voter intimidation appeared in Harper’s Weekly in 1876.

Many contemporary voter ID laws are following the same script, he said.

“It just goes on and on. They’ve never completely gone away. And now they’re back with a vengeance.”

Some opponents of the voter ID laws note that these measures disproportionately affect the elderly and the poor, regardless of race.

Supporters of voter ID laws say they’re not about race at all, but about common sense and preventing voter fraud.

“That is not a racial issue and it certainly isn’t a hardship issue,” said Deneen Borelli, author of “Blacklash,” which argues Obama is turning America into a welfare nation.

“When you try to purchase over-the-counter medication or buy liquor or travel, you present photo ID. This is a basic part of everyday transactions.”

Historians say there are other ways the post-Reconstruction script is being dusted off and that some of them appear to have nothing to do with race on the surface.

Consider the debate over “Obamacare,” the nation’s new health care law. The controversy would be familiar to many 19th-century Americans, said Jim Downs, author of “Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction.”

The notion that the federal government should help those who cannot help themselves wasn’t widely accepted before the Civil War. There were a few charities and municipal hospitals that took care of the sick, but most institutions ignored ordinary people who needed health care, said Downs, a Connecticut College history professor who studies the history of race and medicine in 19th-century America.

Reconstruction changed that. Post-Civil War America was marked by epidemics: yellow fever, smallpox and typhus. Freed slaves, who were often malnourished and had few clothes and little shelter, died by the “tens of thousands,” he said.

The federal government responded by creating the nation’s first-ever national health care system, directed at newly freed slaves. It was called the Medical Division of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The division built 40 hospitals and hired hundreds of doctors to treat more than a million former slaves from 1865 until it was shut down in 1870 after losing congressional funding, Downs said.

“It absolutely radicalized health care,” he said. “You can’t argue that government intervention in health is something new or a recent innovation. It originated in the mid-19th century in response to the suffering of freed slaves.”

Critics at the time said the new health care system was too radical. They said it would make blacks too reliant on government. The system was expanded to include other vulnerable Americans, such as the elderly, children and the disabled. Yet some still saw it as a black handout, Downs said.

“The whole notion of the modern day “welfare queen” can be traced to the post-Civil War period when people became very suspicious of the federal government providing relief to ex-slaves,” Downs said. “They feared this would create a dependent class of people.”

A campaign to ‘save’ America

Economic fears in the post-Reconstruction era also fueled the white backlash, a pattern that some historians say is repeating itself today.

A national economic collapse took place just as freed slaves were gaining political influence. The Panic of 1873 started with a banking collapse and a stock market dive. The result: Tens of thousands of workers, many Civil War veterans, became homeless. People lined up for food and shelter in cities across America.

“It made it more economically competitive for everybody,” Dray said. “You saw whites become even less generous to African-Americans [than] they might have been.”

Some white Southerners channeled their economic anxiety into a systemic attack on the federal government, historians said.

Before the collapse, Southern states controlled by Northern politicians and their allies had built hospitals and public schools and created social services to help freed slaves as well as poor whites, said Jerald Podair, a historian at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.

But the notion of an activist federal government helping blacks amid tough times created an opening for Reconstruction opponents. One group that took advantage of that opening was the Redeemers, a popular movement led by conservative, pro-business politicians who vowed to “save” the South, said Podair, who is writing a book on Bayard Rustin, a close aide to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Redeemers gained control of most Southern statehouses and pledged to reduce the size of government. They defunded public schools, closed public hospitals and halted road construction, Podair said, all while cutting taxes for the wealthy plantation owners, the 1 percenters of their day.

The Redeemers cloaked their rhetoric in the need for more government efficiency, but their goals were also racial, Podair said.

“The Redeemers were interested first and foremost in power,” Podair said. “If freed slaves received education and medical care, they were that much closer to economic and, eventually, political power. And if the federal government had a major role in the South, that also meant less economic and political power for the Redeemer class.”

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Some historians say backlash against Obama mimics 19th century resistance to black political progress.

Podair said some contemporary governors are recycling the same talking points used by the Redeemers. They are invoking the need for austerity while cutting government jobs that employ a high number of blacks and reducing public services that help the poor, a disproportionate number of whom are black.

“There may well be a new post-Reconstruction era of slashed federal budgets and policies that transfer power and resources to state and local governments,” Podair said. “Once again, initiatives that sound race-neutral on their face will have a devastating racial impact.”

Innis has a different take.

He said state and local governments can’t afford to keep the same number of jobs because of generous benefits negotiated by unions. Race has nothing to do with it.

“If you have a government job and the pay and benefits is more than a private sector job, something is wrong,” he said.

Government cutbacks are designed to help the economy, not inflict pain on any particular group.

“Until we get our economy on track, black and brown people are going to suffer,” he said.

‘White Girl Bleed a Lot’

The primary weapon white Southerners used to halt Reconstruction was violence. Mobs attacked and killed blacks gathering to vote. They assassinated black officeholders and their white allies. Newspapers sparked race riots and warned of race wars by printing false accounts of black-on-white attacks.

We are not seeing anywhere near the level of violence toward black people that followed Reconstruction. But some people fear that the inflammatory rhetoric that helped trigger racial violence in that era is returning.

A Google search of the phrase “black mobs attack white people” yields tens of thousands of hits. Conservative bloggers and columnists say a “wave” of black mobs attacking whites at random has spread across the nation in places such as shopping malls, downtown tourist spots and even “Beat Whitey Nights” at Midwestern fairs.

Syndicated conservative columnist Thomas Sowell — himself African-American — wrote in a May 15 column for National Review Online that “race war” has returned to America because black gangs are “launching coordinated attacks on whites in public” across America. A Republican state legislator in Maryland, Patrick L. McDonough, warned earlier this year in a letter to the governor that “roving mobs of black youths” had been attacking white tourists in Baltimore.

One author, Colin Flaherty, wrote a book about this alleged wave of racial violence called, “White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Race Riots to America.” The various accounts follow the same pattern: Black “flash mobs” suddenly attack whites in public, followed by a media cover-up.

Flaherty, also a talk radio show host, said he first noticed the attacks in 2010. Since then, he claims he has seen “thousands” of videos of black mobs attacking whites.

People have called him racist, but Flaherty said he’s just a “guy standing on a corner” reporting what he sees.

“White liberals go nuts on this,” he said of his book. “When people use names like ‘racist,’ they’re using it to shut down conversation, not engage in it.”

The return of race war rhetoric has disturbing historical echoes, said David Godshalk, author of “Veiled Visions: The 1906 Atlanta Race Riot and the Reshaping of American Race Relations.”

Godshalk said neither Sowell nor Flaherty have offered any statistical evidence that reports about “black mobs” are anything more than isolated cases. Sowell did not respond to interview requests.

Scores of blacks died during the post-Reconstruction era because newspapers spread false or grossly exaggerated reports of blacks as predators, particularly accounts of black men raping white women, Godshalk said.

Some whites used those reports to justify violence and political oppression against blacks, he said.

“Longstanding notions that African-Americans were criminals were used to argue that they shouldn’t be leaders in society because they didn’t have the same capabilities as whites, and they weren’t trustworthy enough to hold positions of authority,” said Godshalk, a history professor at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania who has also written about Reconstruction and lynchings.

Those notions of black inferiority eventually infected the legal system during the post-Reconstruction era, historians say.

The post-Reconstruction Supreme Court played a major role in destroying what Congress had created through its racial reforms. The court delivered a series of decisions that nullified the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1875 as well as additional laws designed to protect blacks from mob violence at the voting booth, said Peter Irons, a civil rights attorney and author of “A People’s History of the Supreme Court.”

In 1883, the court imposed a judicial death sentence on Reconstruction in the “Civil Rights Cases” decision, which allowed private individuals and businesses to discriminate against blacks. Associate Justice Joseph Bradley wrote in the decision that freed slaves should stop being “a special favorite of the laws.”

The most notorious post-Reconstruction decision involving race took place in 1895 when the Supreme Court legally sanctioned Jim Crow laws by enshrining the “separate-but-equal” doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson. The court upheld a Louisiana law requiring that federal rail cars provide different facilities for white and black passengers.

By the late 19th century, the Supreme Court had “turned its back on the claims of blacks and opened its arms to those of corporations,” Irons said. It was the onset of the Gilded Age, an era of widening income inequality that saw the court first introduce “corporate personhood,” the concept that a corporation has the legal rights of a person.

“People were getting tired of concerns about racial minorities,” said Irons, an activist whose book on the Supreme Court was partly inspired by the late liberal historian Howard Zinn and his book, “A People’s History of the United States.”

“The court is generally a mirror of the broader society, and that was the way most people felt at the time.”

Irons and other liberal observers fear the current Supreme Court is drifting in a similar direction and anticipate that it will overturn or weaken a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as well as affirmative action in college admissions.

The court is expected to hear a challenge from Shelby County, Alabama, to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires nine Southern states and parts of others to “pre-clear” with federal officials any voting measures that could potentially restrict black voters.

The court is also due to rule on a case on affirmative action in college admission policies in Fisher v. University of Texas.

Irons said the conservative majority on the contemporary court would be doing what their counterparts did during Reconstruction, avoiding a frontal assault on civil rights laws and other measures that protect women and workers, while eviscerating the laws.

“It’s unlikely that the court would render any decisions that would be totally reactionary on issues of race,” said Irons, “but what they’re doing in the current court is whittling away and cutting back very gradually on things like racial, gender and wage discrimination.”

From post-racial to most racial

Some conservatives, though, have a different perspective on Reconstruction and any modern parallels.

Most historians say Reconstruction ended with the disputed presidential contest of 1876. An election too close to call was resolved when candidate Rutherford B. Hayes agreed to pull Northern troops out of the South in exchange for the presidency.

Schweikart, co-author of “A Patriot’s History of the United States,” said the United States abandoned Reconstruction because the nation could not call itself a democracy while keeping half its population under military occupation.

“Reconstruction ended, pure and simple, because the North could not afford economically, politically or socially to maintain a standing army in a part of the U.S. for an indefinite time and still call America a democratic republic,” said Schweikart, a history professor at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

Borelli, author of “Blacklash,” does see one contemporary link with 19th-century America. She argues that Obama is actually encouraging a new form of servitude to what she calls the “Big Government Plantation.”

Since Obama became president, a record number of Americans, at least 46 million, now receive food stamps. And one in six Americans receives some form of government aid as the nation struggles to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

“There are a lot of people who are relying on government for their basic everyday needs: food, clothing and shelter,” said Borelli, who is outreach director for FreedomWorks, a Washington-based group that advocates for smaller government and lower taxes. “When you rely on government, your liberties are reduced.”

Another conservative said Obama has tacitly endorsed reverse racism.

“You can’t have a legitimate disagreement with the president if you’re white without being called a racist,” said Stephen Marks, creator of FightBigotry.com, a Super PAC that produced a television ad accusing Obama of not standing up to racism.

Marks said Obama said nothing when Vice President Joe Biden recently told an audience of black and white voters that Republicans were “going to put y’all back in chains.”

“They’re the ones who play the race card, 100% of the time,” Marks said of Obama and Democrats. “The Republicans don’t have the gonads to respond because they’re so afraid of being called a racist.”

What happened to Revels?

There’s little disagreement among contemporary historians about what happened to the South when the nation abandoned Reconstruction. The region became a divided society where race filtered into everything, said Dray, author of “Capitol Men.”

“It had a paralyzing effect. Business interests didn’t want to invest there. Immigrants didn’t want to go there,” Dray said. “The South became this tainted place. Instead of moving into the 20th century, it stayed put in the 19th century.”

The Jim Crow laws that marked the end of Reconstruction stayed put for at least 60 years. It would take a century before the contemporary civil rights movement restored the political and civil rights of blacks. Some historians argue that the United States did not actually become a democracy until 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Black pioneers like Revels disappeared from the history books. After serving his Senate term, he didn’t seek reappointment and returned to Mississippi, where he eventually became president of Alcorn State College and pastor of a church.

He lost much of his black support for not speaking out against the abuses that ended Reconstruction, said Benjamin, the Boston University professor.

“He was an accommodationist,” Benjamin said. “He was in the Senate standing up for white folks and telling people not to be so hard on Southern plantation owners. He didn’t use his platform to represent African-Americans.”

In 1901, Revels collapsed and died during a church meeting in Mississippi. That same year, the last black member of the House of Representatives finished his final term. Congress resumed being an all-white institution. Blacks had been driven out of office by beatings and assassinations.

Revels’ death barely got a mention in the Southern press. His fellow black congressmen received the same treatment. Revisionist historians were already depicting Reconstruction as a fatal example of government overreach and Northern “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags” coming South to profit off of the regions’ misery, said Dray, author of “Capitol Men.”

“When some of them passed away years later, the Southern press barely mentioned it,” Dray said. “It was a part of American history that people did not want to remember. No one wanted to talk about it or think about it.”

One group of Americans, however, never forgot what Revels represented.

During the Great Depression, Dray said, the federal government dispatched interviewers from the Works Progress Administration to the South to collect oral histories from former slaves.

The interviewers noticed a curious sight as they walked into the shacks of the former slaves. They saw faded copies of an 1872 lithograph depicting the first seven black members of Congress, including Revels.

The image is still haunting.

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A group portrait of the first black African-American U.S. lawmakers, including Revels.

Revels and his fellow racial pioneers are posed together, dressed in vested suits and bow ties. They exude pride and determination, even though only several years earlier they weren’t even considered fully human by many Americans.

Revels sits in the front row of the group portrait. He stares forward in the picture, a man who seems confident in what the future would bring.

What would he think of Obama if he could somehow see him today? Would he be delighted at what America has become in 2012?

Or would he think the future he embodied still seems far away?”

The Atlantic: How White Backlash Controls American Progress

The word backlash gained popularity in the summer of 1963, when, after dallying on the issue for the first two years of his presidency, President John F. Kennedy proposed significant civil-rights legislation. In response, the word, which had primarily denoted the recoil of a fishing line, was repurposed, usually as “white backlash,” to refer to opposition to the increased pace of African American civil-rights activism or the Kennedy (and, after his assassination in November 1963, the Lyndon B. Johnson) administration’s legislative proposals and executive actions, or both.

In 1966, a commentator, speaking of “the grand new word, backlash,” claimed without much exaggeration that “just about everything that happened could be (and was) attributed to some form of backlash.” The word came to stand for a topsy-turvy rebellion in which white people with relative societal power perceived themselves as victimized by what they described as overly aggressive African Americans demanding equal rights. Backlash, as the New York Times columnist Tom Wicker wrote, “is nothing more nor less than white resentment of Negroes.”

Moving beyond an opposition to civil rights, the word backlash—less frequently qualified as “white”—quickly became a synonym for a new and growing conservative force, signifying a virulent counterreaction to all manner of social movements and cultural transformations that became central to American politics. Over time, observers noted manifestations of this reaction in a “Southern backlash,” a “male backlash,” a “heterosexual backlash,” a “property tax backlash” and a “backlash against environmentalists.” Just a month after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a journalist described the United States as being in the midst of “a multitude of backlashes.” But as one commentator pointed out, “The word which gave rise to all sorts of other ‘lashes’ was coined in reference to white opposition to Negro gains.”

Backlash may have burst onto the scene as “the word of the year in American politics” in 1964, but it described one of the oldest and deepest patterns in American politics, one that is once again playing out today in the right-wing campaign against social distancing. Backlashes appear as seemingly serial and discrete events—against the civil-rights movement in the 1960s, or the women’s movement in the ’70s, or the gay-rights movement in the ’90s. But this obscures an underlying continuity: These individual backlashes are all instances of a reactionary tradition, one that is deeply woven into American political culture and that extends back to the era of Reconstruction, at least. And the backlashes are powerful not only for the fury they represent, but in the fear they instill in political leaders, even progressives, who hesitate to push things “too far.”

During Reconstruction, opponents of the black-freedom struggle deployed preemptive, apocalyptic, slippery-slope arguments that have remained enduring features of backlash politics up to the present. They treated federal support for African American civil rights, economic and social equality—however delayed, reluctant, underfunded, and incomplete it may have been—as a cataclysmic overreaction and framed it as a far more dangerous threat to liberty than the injustice it was designed to address. In 1867, not even two years after ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle decried the placement of political power “in the hands of a property-less and ignorant class of the population,” and pronounced that “the pending Reconstruction scheme must be abandoned.”

Since then, such framing has done more than merely shape the politics of reaction in the United States; it has also constrained putatively supportive political leaders, who live in fear of setting off backlashes. Responding to a moderate plan to enfranchise only free blacks in Louisiana in 1864, the Union general Nathaniel P. Banks, worrying about a negative response from the state’s whites, who were being defeated in the Civil War, said, “Revolutions which are not controlled and held within reasonable limits produce counter-revolution.” That obeisance to a defeated group in 1864 was an extreme version of a general pattern that has remained a hallmark of backlashes ever since: solicitousness to white fears.

For many white backlashers in the 1960s, the era of what the historian C. Vann Woodward called the “second Reconstruction,” the first Reconstruction remained a negative model. They viewed its reform as overly fast-paced, and felt that it foregrounded black civil rights at the cost of white people’s peace of mind. They associated civil-rights activism with what popular historians and commentators of the day called the “excesses” of Reconstruction, by which they meant a combination of “militant” African American demands for basic equality with overweening, aggressive, and hasty federal action in support of interracial democracy. Thurman Sensing of the Southern States Industrial Council, a conservative business group, described the civil-rights movement in 1966 as an effort to force “the Reconstruction of American customs,” showing the degree to which the post–Civil War campaign for racial equality remained a central metaphor for white backlashers. The journalist in December 1963 who noted the political power of those opposed to “Negro pressure for equal opportunity and the Federal Government’s pace on the Civil Rights front,” could just as easily have been describing the origins of the counterrevolution of the 1870s.

There was, then, nothing particularly novel about the constituent elements of white backlash to the civil-rights movement: its smoldering resentment, its belief that the movement was proceeding “too fast,” its demands for emotional and psychological sympathy, and its displacement of African Americans’ struggles with its own claims of grievance.

What is particularly noteworthy is that the white backlash in this case was in place before the passage of the Civil Rights Act in July 1964. The pattern is this: American reactionary politics is nearly always preemptive, predicting catastrophe and highlighting potential slippery slopes. “White backlash,” after all, got its name in 1963, just months after African Americans in Birmingham risked attacks from police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses in order to demand justice, and immediately after Kennedy mooted the idea of substantive legislation—both events taking place well before the Civil Rights Act became law. What one reporter called “white panic” was driven by fears of “favoritism” and “special privileges” for African Americans—that white “workers would be forced out of their jobs to make way for Negroes,” as one article put it that year, when Jim Crow still prevailed. “Many of my people think the Negroes want to take over the country,” a midwestern Republican politician said in a Wall Street Journal article published on April 10 of the following year, still months before the Act’s passage. “They think there are things in the bill that just aren’t there, like forced sales of housing to Negroes and stuff like that.” White backlashers imagined coercion where it did not exist. They embraced a lexicon and posture of victimization that hearkened back to the era of Reconstruction and anticipated the deceiving, self-pitying MAGA discourse that drives reactionary politics in Donald Trump’s America.

Residents of Levittown, Penn., are shown during a rally to protest plans by William Myers, a black man, to move into a home in the all-white community of 60,000 persons, Aug. 17, 1957.  (Bill Ingraham / AP)
Residents of Levittown, Pennsylvania, are shown during a rally on August 17, 1957, to protest plans by William Myers, a black man, to move into a home in the all-white community of 60,000 people.  (Bill Ingraham / AP)

Since Reconstruction, many backlash campaigns have imposed a politics of white fragility and frustration onto racial-equality struggles. Reporting on the “hate vote” in The Saturday Evening Post, in October 1964, one month before the presidential election, Ben H. Bagdikian highlighted the “churning, emotional conflict within each voter,” by which he meant white people. He noted that the backlashers “are not against a better life for the Negro, but they are strongly against this being achieved at the cost of white tranquility.” The elevation of “tranquility” over equal justice for all was a hallmark of backlash discourse, which ranked white feelings over black rights.

Backlashers understood civil rights as zero-sum, and therefore treated campaigns for African American equality as an inexcusable undermining of what they saw as deserved white privileges and prerogatives. A New York Times poll revealed, in condensed form, the emotional landscape of the white backlash: “Northern white urbanites have no sympathy for the Negro’s plight, and believe the Civil Rights movement has gone too far, while a considerable percentage believes Negroes ‘don’t appreciate what we’re doing for them.’” The extension of sympathy, such as being in favor of a “better life for the Negro,” was, then, conditional on personal convenience and easily withdrawn. “In general, the persons interviewed were mildly in favor of a better break for Negroes—as long as it wouldn’t affect them personally,” the reporter Dave Allbaugh observed in 1963.

“Too far. Too fast.”  Although Kennedy’s proposal came more than 80 years after the last significant piece of civil-rights legislation was passed in 1875, backlashers often spoke in these terms, deputizing themselves as judges of the proper scope and pace of social change. On February 23, 1964, in The Washington Post, the journalist Robert Baker described the backlash as white “resentment of Negro boycotts and dramatic protests” that they had determined to be “ill-advised and unreasonable,” which suggested that white critics should determine the standard for advisable and reasonable protest. They charged African American protesters—who sought to end nearly a century of Jim Crow segregation, lynching, and disenfranchisement, as well as job and housing discrimination—with moving “too militantly.” To backlashers, the potential passage of the Civil Rights Act marked the dangerous acceleration of a process that needed to proceed more deliberately, according to their schedule and on their terms. “There is wide agreement on Capitol Hill that the polls are right in saying that the white majority believes that the Negro is pushing too far, too fast and that the Kennedy administration is trying to do too much to help the Negro,” Chalmers M. Roberts of The Washington Post wrote in October 1963, in the first story of a three-part report on “the current status of the racial issue in America.” A few months earlier, in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. criticized white moderates (“who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation”) on the ground that their charges of excessive haste were a cover for the racist status quo: “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”White backlashers did not just wallow in their fear, anger, and resentment. In broadcasting these feelings widely, they shaped the limits of acceptable reform. Recommending a “go-slow course,” they could extend sympathy or not, and sought to determine when equal rights crossed the line into “special privileges.” A reporter noted “the apprehension of suburbanites and others in white neighborhoods that their residential areas will face an influx of Negroes.” In this worldview, whites presented themselves as victims, the crimes perpetrated against them by campaigns for equality were anxiety, inconvenience, and fear. Long before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a politician told the Post’s Roberts in October 1963, “For the first time, I’m getting mail from white people saying, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve got rights too.’” The “too” was especially telling because at that time a large number of African Americans still lacked federal protection for basic civil and voting rights.
The “white backlash” thus produced a politics of displacement, shifting the focus from those denied equality under the law and demanding justice to those who imagined threat or inconvenience in the possibility of social change. In September 1963, the Dayton Daily News highlighted the “Northern whites who are growing increasingly jittery as the wave of Negro protest washes home on their doorstep,” and in November of that same year, the Los Angeles Times noted “the welter of ill-feeling generated by Negro marches and sit-ins.” The feelings that mattered were those of white people.The reporting on the backlash foregrounded white fears and anxieties in a way that coverage of African Americans rarely did. Jerry Landauer’s April 1964 report for the Wall Street Journal highlighted white people’s “emotion-laden struggle,” appropriating even the word struggle to describe the psychological challenges for white Americans of adjusting to the possibility of racial equality. Landauer noted “the intense resentment of large blocs of whites in the North,” which was amplified by the likelihood that the Civil Rights Act might actually become law (which it did in July). “To them, the bill has become a symbol of fear—fear of losing jobs to Negroes; fear that neighborhood schools will be flooded by Negro kids ‘bussed in’ from across town; fear that homeowners will be forced to sell, if they wish to sell at all, to Negro newcomers.” These were fears of the consequences of African American equality, framed as unfair victimization.Throughout what we might call the “backlash era,” African Americans offered a clear-eyed analysis and robust critique of backlashes and white defenses of them, taking them to be, as the ex-baseball star and longtime activist Jackie Robinson put it in a 1966 New York Amsterdam News article, “a great big fat alibi for bigotry.” Whereas many white observers in the early 1960s highlighted the novelty of white backlash, Martin Luther King Jr. more accurately called it “a new name for an old phenomenon” that “had always existed underneath and sometimes on the surface of American life.”  Langston Hughes wrote a poem, “The Backlash Blues,” which Nina Simone later set to music and recorded.

Members of the Arkansas-based white-pride organization White Revolution protest on May 21, 2005. (David S. Holloway / Getty)

Perhaps Lorraine Hansberry most directly put her finger on the issue in a June 1964 talk titled “The Black Revolution and the White Backlash,” which she gave at the Town Hall in New York City. She spoke during an event organized by the Association of Artists for Freedom, a group of African American artists and intellectuals, about two weeks before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Pointing to the long history of the black-liberation struggle, Hansberry said, “The charge of impatience is simply unbearable.” Her request to the “white liberal to stop being a liberal and to become a radical” was largely a call for those liberals to recognize that the true victims of racism were not resentful white Americans but African Americans demanding equality.

In the short run, the media spotlight on the white backlash of 1963–64 appeared to have been spectacularly misplaced. The movement proved to be an electoral failure, one almost immediately demonstrated to have been on the wrong side of history. Not only did the Civil Rights Act pass in 1964, but later that year, Lyndon B. Johnson won an overwhelming election victory, leading him to speculate that a “frontlash” of civil-rights support was far more significant than what he labeled the “so-called backlash,” which suffered crushing double defeats that year. Johnson predicted at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City that “for every backlash that the Democrats lose, we pick up three frontlash [votes],” and his shellacking of Barry Goldwater on Election Day seemed to prove him correct.

But, as Johnson was also well aware, the forces of backlash were far from defeated. “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come,” LBJ told Bill Moyers, his press aide, shortly after he signed the Civil Rights Act. With the hindsight that history offers, we can see that Goldwater’s campaign was less a sign of the backlash’s vanquishing than a harbinger of modern conservatism. In 1966, the influential columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak called white backlash “a permanent feature of the political scene,” where it has remained ever since.

Using the same phrase that General Banks had employed a century earlier, but to different purposes, a columnist wrote that the proper way to understand white backlash was as “a counter-revolution against the black man.” Counterrevolution is a phrase that Americans rarely use to describe our politics. But it is not unfair or inaccurate to apply this label to white backlash, whose explicit goal was to slow or halt the civil-rights revolution.

The backlashers lost a number of key political battles in the 1960s, the decade in which they got their name. From Reconstruction to the New Deal, they had been vanquished before, and they’ve been defeated more recently, too, in a variety of areas—LBGTQ rights, for example. But both before and since, the preemptive politics of grievance and anti-egalitarianism they championed, whereby the psychology of privilege takes center stage while the needs of the oppressed are forced to wait in the wings, has left a deforming and reactionary imprint on our political culture. It has done so not just by emboldening reactionaries but by making the fear of setting off backlashes a standard element of the political conversation.

Neo-Nazis, members of the alt-right, and white supremacists take part in a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.* (Zach D Roberts / NurPhoto via Getty)

Consider, as examples, when last year the economist Larry Summers tweeted about the dangers of a wealth tax “boomerang,” and David Brooks warned about the “ugly backlash” that would likely follow an impeachment trial. Or, in a similar vein, when the columnist Ross Douthat wrote that if the Democrats adopt the Green New Deal, it “will empower climate-change skeptics, weaken the hand of would-be compromisers in the GOP” and “possibly help Donald Trump win re-election.” In this way, backlash politics has become a constraint on modern liberalism.

Backlash dynamics have played out over and over again through the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st. They appeared in the reaction against the women’s movement—which, as Mary Wiegers wrote in 1970, faced a “built-in backlash” before it even got started—that culminated in the successful campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment as it came close to becoming law. Such dynamics remained central to campaigns against social provisions, such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in the 1980s and ’90s, and have been reflected in the genre of “angry white male” movies, including Falling Down and Gran Torino. More recently, and more consequentially, these forces helped elect Donald Trump, who framed his campaign and continues to treat his presidency as a backlash against his predecessor, Barack Obama, the first African American president.

The backlashers have been out in force at recent anti-social-distancing protests, which have been dominated by white people proclaiming that public-health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are robbing them of their birthright of liberty. Making the connection to prior backlashes explicit, some protesters have waved Confederate flags and held signs that read Give me liberty or give me death. While in some ways laughable, given their complaints about being unable to get a haircut or having to “get two iced teas in the drive thru,” some of the protesters also incite fear, with their ostentatious weapon-wielding and threats of violence, to say nothing of their willingness to potentially infect others with the coronavirus. Drawing upon the template of the backlashes of earlier historic moments, these protesters, too, combine the paranoia and insecurity that have long warped our political culture with acclamations of freedom for some at the expense of freedom for all. As during Reconstruction and the civil-rights era, we face once again the danger that a politics of freedom and equality may be eclipsed by the psychology of white resentment.

NY Times: The Policies of White Resentment

White resentment put Donald Trump in the White House. And there is every indication that it will keep him there, especially as he continues to transform that seething, irrational fear about an increasingly diverse America into policies that feed his supporters’ worst racial anxieties…

…The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration…

…Like on Christmas morning, every day brings his supporters presents: travel bans against Muslims, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Hispanic communities and brutal, family-gutting deportations, a crackdown on sanctuary cities, an Election Integrity Commission stacked with notorious vote suppressors, announcements of a ban on transgender personnel in the military, approval of police brutality against “thugs,” a denial of citizenship to immigrants who serve in the armed forces and a renewed war on drugs that, if it is anything like the last one, will single out African-Americans and Latinos although they are not the primary drug users in this country. Last week, Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions put the latest package under the tree: a staffing call for a case on reverse discrimination in college admissions, likely the first step in a federal assault on affirmative action and a determination to hunt for colleges and universities that discriminate against white applicants.

That so many of these policies are based on perception and lies rather than reality is nothing new. White resentment has long thrived on the fantasy of being under siege and having to fight back, as the mass lynchings and destruction of thriving, politically active black communities in Colfax, La. (1873), Wilmington, N.C. (1898), Ocoee, Fla. (1920), and Tulsa, Okla. (1921), attest. White resentment needs the boogeyman of job-taking, maiden-ravaging, tax-evading, criminally inclined others to justify the policies that thwart the upward mobility and success of people of color.

The last half-century hasn’t changed that. The war on drugs, for example, branded African-Americans and Latinos as felons, which stripped them of voting rights and access to housing and education just when the civil rights movement had pushed open the doors to those opportunities in the United States.

Similarly, the intensified war on immigrants comes, not coincidentally, at the moment when Latinos have gained visible political power, asserted their place in American society and achieved greater access to schools and colleges. The ICE raids have terrorized these communities, led to attendance drop-offs in schools and silenced many from even seeking their legal rights when abused.

The so-called Election Integrity Commission falls in the same category. It is a direct response to the election of Mr. Obama as president. Despite the howls from Mr. Trump and the Republicans, there was no widespread voter fraud then or now. Instead, what happened was that millions of new voters, overwhelmingly African-American, Hispanic and Asian, cast the ballots that put a black man in the White House. The punishment for participating in democracy has been a rash of voter ID laws, the purging of names from the voter rolls, redrawn district boundaries and closed and moved polling places.

Affirmative action is no different. It, too, requires a narrative of white legitimate grievance, a sense of being wronged by the presence of blacks, Latinos and Asians in positions that had once been whites only. Lawsuit after lawsuit, most recently Abigail Fisher’s suit against the University of Texas, feed the myth of unqualified minorities taking a valuable resource — a college education — away from deserving whites.

In order to make that plausible, Ms. Fisher and her lawyers had to ignore the large number of whites who were admitted to the university with scores lower than hers. And they had to ignore the sizable number of blacks and Latinos who were denied admission although their SAT scores and grade point averages were higher than hers. They also had to ignore Texas’ unsavory racial history and its impact. The Brown decision came down in 1954, yet the Dallas public school system remained under a federal desegregation order from 1971 to 2003.

That white resentment simply found a new target for its ire is no coincidence; white identity is often defined by its sense of being ever under attack, with the system stacked against it. That’s why Mr. Trump’s policies are not aimed at ameliorating white resentment, but deepening it. His agenda is not, fundamentally, about creating jobs or protecting programs that benefit everyone, including whites; it’s about creating purported enemies and then attacking them.

The Atlantic: White racism vs. White resentment

“I understand what Andrew and Publius were getting at when they argued that white racism was less common in the South than people think. This just isn’t 1965. This isn’t even 1985. But I have to differ with Publius on this idea that “white resentment” is somehow a different animal. And I especially have to differ with Andrew that Affirmative Action is responsible. Many of you know where I stand on Affirmative Action–I think it is, how shall we say, problematic. But that feeling does nothing to ameliorate my fundamental distaste for whites who use Affirmative Action as a proxy to “resent” blacks.

Ezra basically nails it:

The end of privilege — though of course, white privilege didn’t end, it was only somewhat reduced — hurts. Ending slavery meant destroying a lot of privilege, and it created a war. Reconstruction disrupted a lot of privilege and it produced countless lynchings and murders. Ending segregation destroyed a hefty amount of privilege, and it spurred societal tumult and vicious violence. By contrast, affirmative action was a relatively modest policy with fairly minimal effects on privilege, and it merely resulted in a potent political issue for conservatives. But to call white resentment the “poisoned fruit” of affirmative action is extremely strange. White resentment has been around a lot longer, and stems from people’s desire to protect the fruits of a gross and grave injustice.

Indeed. I’m going to take this a step further–The idea that Affirmative Action justifies white resentment may be the greatest argument made for Reparations–like ever. Let’s grant that white people have the right to resent black people because of 40 years of race preferences. But black people suffered through 300 years of race preferences which included, but weren’t limited to–slavery, pogroms, wanton rape, land theft, and wealth transfer. Southern whites (the very people who perpetrated much of that sad history) can have their resentment, unashamed and public–right after they give us the deed to the entire Deep South. Sounds fair to me. What’s that you say? Most whites didn’t own slaves? And your grandfather hated the Klan? My sentiments exactly.  Most black people don’t benefit from Affirmative Action either. So what are we saying here?

Racial resentment is just racial grievance—for white people. If it’s absurd to hear Civil Rights era black folks attributing the entire fate of black people to racism, than its just surreal to hear white folks chalking their problems up to Affirmative Action. One doesn’t have to be pro-Affirmative Action to see the hypocrisy in those who say to blacks, heaving under a legacy of hate, “get over it” and then turn to Southern white “resenters,” merely grappling with equality, and say “I understand.”Just to bang on this racial resentment thing a little harder, I think it’s no mistake that Geraldine Ferraro basically used this same phraseology when making her case against Obama. The whole phrase strikes me as a politically correct term for bigots. Frankly, believing that Affirmative Action actively influences your economic prospects as a white person, is only slightly more logical that believing that gay marriage will somehow affect marriage overall. But I suspect that they’re both proxies for folks  who have a long history of resenting blacks and gays which stretches way past the advent of Affirmative Action or gay marriage.One can have a principled case against Affirmative Action. But to resent black people–as a group–because of Affirmative Action is, really, the essence of racial prejudice. It’s a judgment passed on a whole group, based on a minority of that group. We lefties get banged over the head–rightly so–for, at times, being mealy-mouthed and soft-headed. Fair enough. All I’m asking for is some consistency.”

NATGEO: As America Changes, Some Anxious Whites Feel Left Behind

Demographic shifts rippling across the nation are fueling fears that their culture and standing are under threat.

“Outnumbered is a word that came up often when I talked with white residents of this eastern Pennsylvania town. Outnumbered in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Outnumbered at the bank. Outnumbered at the Kmart, where the cashier merrily chitchats in Spanish with Hazleton’s newer residents.

Hazleton was another former coal mining town slipping into decline until a wave of Latinos arrived. It would not be an overstatement to say a tidal wave. In 2000 Hazleton’s 23,399 residents were 95 percent non-Hispanic white and less than 5 percent Latino. By 2016 Latinos became the majority, composing 52 percent of the population, while the white share plunged to 44 percent.

“We joke about it and say we are in the minority now,” says Bob Sacco, a bartender at A&L Lounge, a tavern on a street now mainly filled with Latino-owned storefronts. “They took over the city. We joke about it all the time, but it’s more than a joke.”

That dizzying shift is an extreme manifestation of the nation’s changing demographics. The U.S. Census Bureau has projected that non-Hispanic whites will make up less than 50 percent of the population by 2044, a change that almost certainly will recast American race relations and the role and status of white Americans, who have long been a comfortable majority.

Hazleton’s experience offers a glimpse into the future as white Americans confront the end of their majority status, which often has meant that their story, their traditions, their tastes, and their cultural aesthetic were seen as being quintessentially American. This is a conversation already exploding across the country as some white Americans, in online forums and protests over the removal of Confederate monuments, react anxiously and angrily to a sense that their way of life is under threat. Those are the stories that grab headlines and trigger social media showdowns. But the shift in status—or what some are calling “the altitude adjustment”—is also playing out in much more subtle ways in classrooms, break rooms, factory floors, and shopping malls, where the future has arrived ahead of schedule. Since 2000, the minority population has grown to outnumber the population of whites who aren’t Hispanic in such counties as Suffolk in Massachusetts, Montgomery in Maryland, Mecklenburg in North Carolina, as well as counties in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, and Texas.

For decades, examining race in America meant focusing on the advancement and struggles of people of color. Under this framework, being white was simply the default. Every other race or ethnic group was “other-ized,” and matters of race were the problem and province of people of color. In a period bookended by the presidential elections of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the question of what it means to be white in America has increasingly taken center stage.

On several fronts, there is growing evidence that race is no longer a spectator sport for white Americans: The growth of whiteness studies courses on college campuses. Battles over immigration and affirmative action. A rising death rate for middle-aged white Americans with no more than a high-school diploma from drugs, alcohol, and suicide in what economists are calling “deaths of despair.” The increasingly racially polarized electorate. The popularity of a television show called Dear White People that satirizes “post-racial” America. The debate over the history and symbols of the Confederacy. The aggression and appeal of white nationalism, with its newest menacing chant: “You will not replace us.”

The protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August likely will be remembered as a moment when hate groups, wearing polo shirts and khakis, stepped out of the shadows. Most Americans soundly denounce the message and the methods of the neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, and white nationalists who gathered at the “Unite the Right” rally to decry the removal of a monument honoring a Confederate general. But matters of race are complicated, and academics and researchers who closely chart the fractious history of race relations in this country note that the Charlottesville demonstrations—though widely pilloried—also punctuate an issue that animates everything from politics to job prospects and even the world of professional sports: the fear of displacement in an era of rapid change…

…“We know in sociology when community identity is challenged or questioned in some way, the community asserts and defends that identity,” Longazel says. “With Hazleton’s changing demographics and persistent economic decline, the community began to see itself as white. The city reasserted its identity as white.” Longazel thinks that same psychology might be emerging on a national level.

His research found repeated themes. White Hazletonians consistently recalled a city that was “close-knit, quiet, obedient, honest, harmless, and hardworking” and described newcomers as “loud, disobedient, manipulative, lawless, and lazy.” The anecdotes were often similar. Did that many people really witness a Latino family at the grocery store using food stamps to buy seafood and steak, or did the stories spiral forward on their own weight, embraced and repeated as personal observation? And why did so few people in his research reference the new residents who were paying taxes, going to church twice a week, buying sedans on Airport Road, and opening businesses that percolate all up and down North Wyoming Street?

THE CHANGING COMPLEXION OF YOUTH

In less than two years, white children who are not Hispanic will no longer be the majority among those under 18 years old in the United States, the Census Bureau estimates. By then, children who are now considered minorities— Latino, black, Asian, and others—will out-number them, although non-Hispanic white children will remain the largest racial or ethnic group. Within a few decades, the entire non- Hispanic white population in the country will also no longer be the majority.

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“The whole notion of whiteness as we know it depends on not being a minority,” says Brian Glover, a professor who specializes in 18th-century British literature at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. “In the 20th century, the white man was the best deal that anybody ever had in the history of the planet. I mean, in America you could feel like you were at the center of everything. You didn’t have to justify yourself.”…

“It means that a lot of people are just going to lose materially and are already losing materially,” he told me in a recent conversation. “I can somehow feel more virtuous because it was necessarily built on equality? I just don’t know if that really keeps people warm at night, knowing that there’s equality out there. I think they would rather have privilege.” He’s just being honest about the practical effect for people like him...

So what happens when America crosses that milestone and becomes a majority-minority country? There won’t be any fireworks or bells, and in truth this country’s infrastructure around wealth, politics, education, and opportunity is so entrenched that white people, and white men in particular, will still hold the reins of power on Wall Street and Main Street for quite some time. The change is likely to be more subtle. You will see it at the grocery store, in the produce section and condiment aisle. You will see it in classrooms, where the under-18 population will reach a majority-minority state in just two years. You will notice it in pop culture and in advertisements, where businesses have already figured out that the color most important to their bottom line is green.

While the angst over the coming demographic shift might make for more uncomfortable race relations, it might finally usher in a reckoning in which America faces hard truths: The Founding Fathers built white dominance into the fabric and laws of the nation, and a country that proclaims to love freedom and liberty is still struggling with its roots in the original sin of slavery…

…Every Tuesday, Landrieu (New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu) has lunch at a local restaurant with his parents, who are both in their 80s. During a recent meal he approached an older couple he knew to say a quick hello. The wife was wearing a scowl as she leaned in close. “You ruined my life,” she said, twice, then added, “You destroyed my life.” “What did I do?” Landrieu asked, revealing a streak of political confidence that dances along the edge of disrespect. “You took the monuments down,” she said. Landrieu replied, “Are you dying? Did it give you cancer?”

He asserts he did more than just take down the monuments. He also took away something intangible and yet just as weighty as all that bronze and marble: pride. “There is a white Christian ethnic identity that people have tied onto and somehow connected to the Confederacy,” Landrieu says. “They feel like somebody has taken something away from them.””

Vice: White People Explain Why They Feel Oppressed

I just didn’t understand how so many white people in American could believe that they are the primary victims of racism. So, I asked some white folks about it to find out why.

Sometimes white people vex me. Maybe they confuse you, too. Maybe you’re a white person who is sometimes confused by white people. A lot of white people have told me they’re befuddled by the actions and perspectives of other white people. I hear you. What confuses me? I think it’s the utter lack of awareness of how race in America truly functions. In the midst of a national policing crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to will into existence a sense of value for black bodies and some white people respond, “Why are they so anti-white?” That’s dumbfounding to me. I wonder, how could they be so clueless? When white people question why blacks get to say certain words or make certain jokes that whites can’t or when white people ask where is White History Month or when white people question why they have to pay for the racism of their ancestors, it’s offensive and infuriating and it’s also confounding.

In Ta-Nehisi Coates’s astounding new book, Between the World and Me, he refers to white people as “dreamers” to evoke the sense of them being not fully awake, like sleepwalkers. I’m not sure if white people are like sleepwalkers, or more like ostriches, consciously burying their heads in the sand, hiding from reality. And that’s exactly what vexes me the most about white people: their reluctance, or unwillingness, to recognize the vast impact their race has on their lives and on the lives of all those around them.

Modern white Americans are one of the most powerful groups of people to ever exist on this planet and yet those very people—or, if you’re white, you people—staunchly believe that the primary victims of modern racism are whites. We see this in poll after poll. A recent one by the Public Religion Research Institute found 52 percent of whites agreed, “Today discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.” A 2011 study led by a Harvard Business School professor went deeper to find that “whites see race as a zero sum game they are losing.” That was even the name of the study.It showed that over the last five decades both blacks and whites think racism against Blacks has been slowly declining, but white people think racism against whites is growing at a fast rate. White people are increasingly certain that they’re being persecuted. The study also notes, “by any metric—employment, police treatment, loan rates, education—stats indicate drastically poorer outcomes for black than white Americans.” White perception and the reality are completely at odds.

Why is it that some white people feel like they are the primary victims of racism? And why do they feel like giving any bit of liberty to black Americans means they are losing something? And why should I be an unpaid armchair psychiatrist interpreting the feelings of white people when I could just ask them? I mean, they’re all over the place and available for study in their natural habitat. So I did my own unscientific poll, asking several white people to help me understand white people. Based off the responses, I found three primary explanations for why so many white folks feel like they are the true victims in America today.

Isn’t Whiteness Less Valuable Now?

For some white people, whiteness seems less economically valuable than it was decades ago. It’s as if w­hite privilege doesn’t take you as far these days in the same way that a dollar doesn’t go as far as it did in your grandpa’s time. Back in the Mad Men-era, if a white man showed up, he got a good job that let him take care of his family. No more, they say. But understanding the reasons behind that are hard. A woman who asked not to be named said, “Being a reasonably hard working white male no longer entitles you to respect or a middle class lifestyle. This has mostly to do with structural economic dynamics including increased competition globally and the decline of unions, but it’s a lot simpler to blame it on the black person or Hispanic person who got the job that you think was supposed to be yours.”

Jon Dariyanani, co-founder of a software start-up called Cognotion, echoed that sentiment. “It’s much easier to believe that the reason the middle class life is slipping away from you is because some lazy group of people are soaking up resources and blocking the way, than to believe that it is caused by globalization and bad macroeconomic policy beyond any individual’s control. ‘Anti-white’ racism relies on an economic anxiety that is almost entirely a fantasy.”

It’s definitely easier to blame a person of color than it is to try to understand how faceless global economic forces have screwed you over. You can’t see global economic forces working, many people don’t understand them, and who specifically are you supposed to blame? Besides, blaming black people is as American as Apple computers.

Is Whiteness Ending?

Throughout American history, white has been the dominant race. That is ending. Demographers say that by 2043 there will be fewer white people than people of color in America. We will become a minority-majority nation. Among children under six, it has already happened—there are more kids of color than white kids. I imagine this impending end could seem frightening.

Tim Wise, anti-racist educator says, “When you’ve had the luxury of presuming yourself to be the norm, the prototype of an American, any change in the demographic and cultural realities in your society will strike you as outsized attacks on your status. You’ve been the king of the hill and never had to share shit with anyone, what is really just an adjustment to a more representative, pluralistic, shared society seems like discrimination. When you’re used to 90 percent or more of the pie, having to settle for only 75 or 70 percent? Oh my God, it’s like the end of the world.” But as white people lose their dominant status, the meaning of whiteness in America will have to change significantly.

What Is Racism?

Some of the white people I talked with feel like many white people lack of a deep understanding of race and racism. Tim Wise said, “Whites are used to thinking of racism as an interpersonal thing, rather than institutional. So we can recall that time we got shitty customer service by a black person, or had some black person make fun of us for something, and we think, ‘we’re the victims of racism now,’ paying no attention to the ongoing systemic imbalance in our favor.” This is in part because the nature of privilege is that you don’t have to think deeply about your privilege if you don’t want to.

Erikka Knuti, a political strategist, said, “Part of white privilege has been the ability to not know that your privilege exists. If you benefit from racism, do you really want to know that?” I can see where it would be uncomfortable for people to admit that their lives are shaped by unearned advantages, especially in an environment where those advantages may be beginning to slip away, but the blindness itself is a part of the problem. White people have duties as part of the American community. They must be honest with themselves and their co-citizens and admit that white privilege shapes a lot of life in this country. They must understand that the truly pernicious, life-defining sort of racism is not interpersonal, it’s institutional. The systems that shape who lives where, who gets educated, who gets jobs, who gets arrested, and so on, these things shape lives, and they are all heavily weighted in white people’s favor. To ignore all of that is to misunderstand America. If white people admit those things, it will be plain that they are not, in any way, victims.

Calling yourself color-blind is not progress—it’s insulting.

I am not urging white people to feel guilty, I’m saying be more honest. As we move toward a nation where white people are less dominant, it will be critical that white people stop being racial ostriches, or sleepwalkers, and deal forthrightly with what it means to be white. Many white people say they have a strong desire to not discuss race because there’s a chance they could make a mistake and end up somehow looking racist. But a lack of discussion about race leads to a lack of sophistication about race.

Sociologists speak of race-averse (homes where race is not discussed) and race-aware households (homes where race is openly discussed). Children who grow up in race-averse homes tend to have a more difficult time dealing with race when they get older because they have less experience wrestling with it in their youth. White people are, by and large, living in race-averse communities that support their desire to not discuss race and thus often ending up struggling with how to deal with this complex, nuanced, emotional subject. This is not progress. Calling yourself color-blind is not progress—it’s insulting. Engaging with race, making serious efforts to understand race, understanding how systems shape our world and how white people consistently benefit from those systems to the detriment of others, and rejecting the backwards notion of white victimhood—that is the path to progress.”

Now This:  White Culture isn’t Under Attack

Debunking the Racial Scholoarship Myth

NPR: Scholarships: Who Gets Them And Why?

Numerous scholarships are aimed at minorities as part of efforts to boost diversity on American college and university campuses. But some white students complain they’re having a hard time finding grants that they’re eligible for. Mark Kantrowitz publishes Fastweb.com, a free scholarship matching service and is the author of the book, “Secrets to Winning a Scholarship”. He speaks to host Michel Martin about scholarship awards.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:We wanted to dig further into Colby Bohannan’s perception that whites, particularly white men, are somehow at a disadvantage when it comes to getting college scholarships. So we’ve called one of the country’s leading experts on college financing, Mark Kantrowitz. He’s the publisher of fastweb.com, a free scholarship-matching service, and finaid.org. He’s the author of “Secrets to Winning a Scholarship.” And he’s been called upon to testify before Congress on these matters. And he’s with us now from member station WQED in Pittsburgh.

Mark Kantrowitz, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. MARK KANTROWITZ (Publisher, Fastweb.com and Finaid.org; Author): Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Now, you just heard Colby Bohannan say that he had a difficult time finding scholarships that he was eligible for. Is it true that minorities are more likely to receive college scholarships?

Mr. KANTROWITZ: In fact, they are less likely to receive college scholarships. And they represent about a third of the applicants, but only about 28 percent of the recipients. Caucasian students receive 72 percent of all scholarships. Minority students receive only 28 percent of all scholarships.

MARTIN: Why might that be so?

Mr. KANTROWITZ: Well, partly, the scholarship providers, private scholarships, are sponsored by individuals, and many times for people who are like themselves or who engage in activities like themselves. It’s not deliberate discrimination, but, for example, very few minority students engage in equestrian sports, whereas Caucasian students might be more likely to. I mean, that’s a pretty rare example. But it shows that when you have scholarships that are for characteristics that you value, then people like you are more likely to qualify for those awards.

MARTIN: You actually say in your book that this is a common misperception and that, actually, every couple of years, somebody comes up with an idea like Colby Bohannan’s and tries to generate or create a scholarship specifically for white students. And it generally doesn’t take off or last very long. Why do you think that this perception persists?

And why is it that these kinds of, like, for-whites-only scholarships don’t tend to succeed very well, even though scholarships for people who engage in specific activities that white people might be more interested in, are more likely to participate in, does persist over time?

Mr. KANTROWITZ: Well, the scholarships are a lot rarer than people expect. I mean, families tend to overestimate their eligibility for merit-based awards and underestimate their eligibility for need-based awards. The merit-based scholarships for students who are pursuing a four-year degree, a bachelor’s degree, about one in 10 students receives private-sector scholarships to pay for their education.

And the average amount used per year is $2,815. So when students have higher expectations about the availability of scholarships and then don’t win the scholarships, they want to blame someone. And there are a few high-profile scholarships for minority students, and that attracts the attention. They then want to blame those awards.

As to why these scholarships for whites-only awards or white men tend to not last, they tend to be sponsored by students. Before the current one, there was one by the College Republicans at Boston University. And these are students who are doing this attract publicity, and they generally don’t last beyond the students’ graduation.

MARTIN: And on this specific perception that Colby Bohannan had, is that white males particularly are at a specific disadvantage, do you have any reflections on that?

Mr. KANTROWITZ: Well, men are underrepresented in college education. For the past decade or two, there has been a shift in college enrollment from men being the majority to women being the majority. I don’t have a good explanation for why that shift has occurred, but it’s something that I’ve observed. But the ability of men to win scholarships is about the same as the ability of women, even when you disaggregate it by race.

MARTIN: If you’re just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. We’re digging further into this perception that minorities are more likely to receive scholarship money than Caucasians are. Our guest is Mark Kantrowitz. He’s a recognized expert on college financing. He’s the author of “Secrets to Winning a Scholarship.”

Now, we have been talking about private scholarship money so far, but what about public grants? What’s the breakdown there of who tends to receive that money?

Mr. KANTROWITZ: Well, the Pell Grant program, the Caucasian students receive a much lower percentage of the awards. A Caucasian student has about a 20 percent chance of receiving a Pell Grant compared to 38 percent for minority students -a little bit higher for African-American students, a little bit lower for Hispanic students. And that’s because the Pell Grant is based on the income and assets of the applicant, and minority students tend to have lower income than Caucasian students.

For example, looking just at the students with incomes, family incomes under $50,000, 48 percent of Caucasian students fall into that group, whereas 77 percent of African-American students fall into that group, and overall among minority students, 71 percent.

MARTIN: People often talk about the idea of a full ride. You know, sometimes people joke about this. They say, well, you know, I’m trying to get my son to play golf, you know, so he can get a full ride. Or I want my daughter to, you know, do x, y and z because she can get a full ride. How often does it actually happen that someone gets a full ride, that someone can actually win enough scholarship funds to cover the full cost of an undergraduate education?

Mr. KANTROWITZ: It’s quite rare. Less than 3/10ths of a percent of undergraduate students pursuing bachelor’s degrees have won enough money to cover their complete tuition. One in 10 students wins private sector scholarships. So most students are going to have to rely on federal grants, state grants and money from the college itself, as well as, potentially, employer support if their parents work for a company that offers employer tuition assistance in order to pay for school.

Also, don’t forget about the education tax benefits, such as the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit, which you can claim by following your federal income tax return.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, what are some of the other important college financing myths that you think it’s important to dispel?

Mr. KANTROWITZ: An important one is that if you don’t save, you’ll get more money. And you will get a little bit more money, but you’re better off saving because you’ll have more choice, more flexibility. You’re not penalized for all your savings. You’re just penalized for up to 5.64 percent, in the worst-case scenario, of your savings. So it’s important to start saving for college as soon as possible, start searching for scholarships as soon as possible, and persevere. I mean, the more scholarships to which you apply, the better your chances of winning a scholarship.

MARTIN: Mark Kantrowitz has written two books on student aid, and he’s even been called to testify before Congress on financial aid scholarships and student loan matters. He’s the author of “Secrets to Winning a Scholarship.” And he was kind enough to join us from member station WQED in Pittsburgh.

Mark Kantrowitz, thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. KANTROWITZ: Thank you.

 Finaid: The Distribution of Grants and Scholarships by Race

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